After last night’s camp spot by Culbertson Bridge, Joe has now traveled 102 miles since Fort Peck, making the total before todays travel 702 miles.
The travel has been very challenging after Fort Peck because of the lack of river flow and depth. As Tim, the dam manager at Holter Lake, had warned, the flow was cut back out of the dams; therefore, Joe is encountering numerous sand bars, eddies, and slow moving water. The lack of water is causing travel to be slower and harder: it took 11 hours on Friday and 10 hours and 45 minutes on Saturday to paddle the 102 miles. Yesterday (Saturday), he told me the river conditions were improving, but he pulled off when he did because of the impending thunderstorms.
Joe also encountered rough winds, with a 10-15 mile per hour easterly wind, which made for a difficult headwind all day. He tells me the jet stream is taking longer to stabilize this year; hence the common northwesterly winds are not present right now.
I was wondering, as I’m sure some of you are as well, how Joe is able to receive the weather updates. He told me that with the Standard Horizon HX471S VHF radio, he is able to pick up weather reports as well as a few other stations. He posted a blog entry on April 7th reviewing the radio (Click here to get a full description from that post).
The wildlife on this stretch of the river wasn’t as amazing as the White Cliffs region, although that could be due to his more arduous paddling so he is not appreciating it as much. One little tidbit he did share with me was about the dog tick.
He said they are becoming more prevalent on this section of the river, so the twice daily checks are crucial. Joe said they have only been on his gear, but are still nuisances none the less. He tells me Lyme disease, as well as some of the other tick transmitted diseases, is not endemic to the region, but he is still taking precaution with them.
Joe made mention that today should be his last day in Montana and will be heading into North Dakota very soon. He also was interested into the significance of the railroad that he had been traveling next to for awhile, the formerly known as, Burlington Northern Railroad. It is a predominant freight train system that merged into a larger railroad company, BNSF railway, with the merger of Burlington Northern, Incorporated and the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation. The company is huge: moving more grain than any other railroad, as well as hauling enough coal to power 10% of the United States. I should be able to fill him in on the interesting facts about the railway when I speak with him today.
His next portage point, Williston, North Dakota, is fast approaching and afterward, he will be on another large lake, Lake Sacajawea. The lake travel should be a little easier on the coming lakes, as opposed to Fort Peck Lake, because he does not have the open water to cross. On Fort Peck Lake, he was traveling between fingers of land on the lake, making for long stretches of open water paddling. On Lake Sacajawea, there is more of a coastline, so travel should be better. His goal today is past Fort Union, but before Williston. I will have an update on the location and days events as soon as I speak with him.