Fields Gulch

A meadow along the Missouri River, part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

The National Trails System is a network of Congressionally-designated trails spanning the United States. The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is a crown jewel of this network, a legendary route that traces the voyage of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark from 1804 to 1806. This historic and treacherous mission involved traveling through parts of the continent never before visited by European-Americans, masterminded by President Thomas Jefferson.


Over 4,000 miles of land and water routes today offer visitors an unforgettable vantage point of the West that most people never see. (Learn more about the trail at


We interviewed Janet Moreland, an intrepid adventurer who retraced a large portion of the journey of Lewis and Clark by kayak — 2,600 miles down the Missouri River and beyond.

Janet on the Jefferson River in Montana. Photo by Norman Miller

Janet on the Jefferson River in Montana. Photo by Norman Miller

Congratulations on completing the Missouri River section of the Lewis & Clark National Historical Trail on your kayak.  You retraced their homeward journey from where they’d stored their canoes and supplies (now Clark’s Reservoir) and also explored upstream from there on skis and bicycle.  What led you to undertake this historic journey?

My expedition began on April 24, 2013, with a high-country ski into the ultimate source of the Missouri River where the water wells up out of the mountains at Brower’s Spring in the Centennial Mountains of southern Montana near the Continental Divide. My bicycle ride began at the base of the Hell Roaring Canyon, seven miles downstream from the spring, and continued down the Centennial Valley 100 miles to Clark Canyon Dam, where the Red Rock River ends and the Beaverhead River begins. My kayak, Blue Moon, began its journey on May 1, 2013. This journey was lingering in the back of my mind for at least seven years, ever since Dave Miller, author of “The Complete Paddler,” had stopped by Cooper’s Landing on his final segment of his journey paddling from Three Forks, MT, to St. Louis. I asked him questions about the upper Missouri River and what the river was like in Montana. I was most intrigued with the notion of paddling the river all the way from Montana down to the Mississippi River. Because of my background, and my experiences doing extreme activities since my youth, I have always had an eye out for an adventure to conquer. Now that my daughter is grown, and I am beginning a new teaching career having just graduated from college in December of 2012, all of the stars aligned when World Class paddler, Norm Miller (not to be confused with Dave Miller), encouraged me to be the first woman to paddle the Missouri River solo. This was the perfect adventure for me.

How long did the trip take you and how many hours did you paddle most days?

I began on April 24, 2013, and reached the Gulf of Mexico on December 5, 2013. I believe someone totalled the days at 223. I averaged six to eight hours of paddling a day. The wind was the final say on when and how long I paddled. I did not rush myself like most male expedition paddlers. I wanted to savor the experience so I wouldn’t be slave to the thought afterwards that I should have taken more time here or there. That said, there was not a lot of time for exploratory trips. I stayed on the river for the most part.


How did you manage supplies and find places to camp?

I carried three to four weeks of food in my kayak. I was never in a situation where I could not survive without stopping at a store. On a few occasions I picked up a box mailed to me at a certain town I was approaching where the post office was easily accessible. This package mainly contained dehydrated vegetables and jerky from home that I supplemented into my pasta and rice dinners. There might be some dark chocolate in the box, too, for a treat! Finding a campsite could be difficult if I waited until dark. Some element of thinking ahead was necessary. Most of the time I did not know where exactly I would be camping. I tried to find a campsite before the sun set on the horizon, for it was then I would know that I had roughly one hour of sufficient light left to set up camp.


Do you have any favorite Lewis and Clark sites?

I would have to say that the Gates of the Rocky Mountains is one of my favorite sites. I camped right across the river from their campsite. Camping and hiking in this granite canyon was exceptionally enjoyable for me, particularly because of the similarity with the Sierra Nevada Mountains where I spent 11 years of my youth exploring the natural mountain environment.

What were some of the challenges along the way?
I am not sure if the most significant challenge was paddling into headwinds and large swells on the lakes or if it was waiting on shore for hours or days for the high winds to calm. Because of a large rainy period in the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument just prior to when I paddled through, the downstream portion of the monument was flooded and extremely muddy. I am not particularly fond of camping in the mud, but at least it was silky and clean mud, if you can believe that. I just took my shoes off and waded in with bare feet. The greatest challenges of all were the electrical storms. Let’s just say I survived all of them, but not one without some serious prayer.

After the great accomplishment of arriving back to St. Louis (where Lewis and Clark completed their journey) you then continued all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. When did you decide to add this segment to your trip and how did it compare to the Missouri?

I am the third person to ever paddle from the ultimate source of the Missouri River to St. Louis and then on to the Gulf of Mexico. Mark Kalch, an Australian, and Rod Wellington, a Canadian, both completed the trip the year prior to my journey. This makes me the first American as well as first woman to do this trek solo. Once I decided to paddle the Missouri, I next had to decide whether to start at the source, or whether I could start at the source at 10,000′ in elevation. Once the decision was made to go source-to-sea, I planned on the St. Louis to Gulf leg for the next summer (2014). Once I realized I would not be teaching with a contract in 2013, it made more sense to continue on while I had the momentum and support, and then actively job search in the summer of 2014.

I knew nothing about the Mississippi River when I started down the river. I did have experienced paddlers as a resource and guide for the first few days. I was connected to the river angels network all along the river so I was always able to get information if needed. Once alone on the river however, I fell in love with the Mississippi and enjoyed the sandbars, tow and barges, wildlife and solitude. Plus, there was minimal mud, which came as a pleasant surprise. The size of the Mississippi surpasses the Missouri for the most part, but an intimate relationship with the river is still possible, like with the Missouri. The barge and ship traffic is intensified on the Mississippi, but I loved having their company. I believe the tow captains of today would be navigating the steamships of old had they been born in that era. I found the tow and barges to be a romantic part of the Mississippi experience. Because of its size, the Mississippi has a rocking sensation to it, which gives it breath and life, so to speak.

Follow more details of Janet’s epic journey and see more pictures at