Tom Elpel´s Missouri River Corps Voyage of Re-Discovery

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

When most of us take a notion to paddle a long distance canoe adventure we grab our wallet and head for the canoe store. Not this guy. Thomas Elpel went and bought a tree. A really big tree.

Then he and his friend Churchill Clark (descendant of Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) carved it into a 1,000 pound dugout canoe complete with carved beaver head bow.

Thus the affectionate name Belladonna Beaver (Italian for Fair Lady).

They paddled Bella down the Missouri River in their own five month voyage of re-discovery. Thomas tells this fantastic story in the pages of his new book Five Months on the Missouri River, Paddling a Dug Out Canoe from Three Forks, Montana to St. Louis, Missouri. The book is available with 33% discount for early orders.

Elpel´s journey traces the footsteps and paddle strokes of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition on its return from the Pacific Ocean to St. Louis in 1806, during the last half-year of their Voyage of Discovery.

Elpel´s journey is called the Missouri River Corps of Re-Discovery. The story he has to tell is one of the most intriguing and fascinating I’ve ever read about modern day expedition canoeing.

Thomas Elpel is just an ordinary man, botanist and professor, who did something so remarkably extraordinary that he has inspired me and others like me to do something spectacular. I recommend his book as serious adventure reading for anyone who feels the siren call of far places and craves the solitude of backcountry adventures and accepts the challenge of doing something truly amazing.

His accompanying YouTube videos beginning with Dugout Canoe Carving, the Story of Belladonna Beaver bring to life how difficult it really was to do a long distance canoe journey in the days of Lewis and Clark.

Very few of us will ever take on the task of carving a canoe and paddling it 2341 miles. But we can enjoy his well written story and marvel at the maps and images that depict his tremendous journey.

Thank you Thomas Elpel for this wonderful story about your amazing adventure.

Andy Lee Outdoors is the author of Five Hundred Miles to the Sea and administrator of the Facebook group Adventure Canoe and Kayak Camping.

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