Jefferson River Canoe Trail
Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail
Eighty percent of the Lewis and Clark expedition took place via water, with canoes serving as the primary vessels to move up and down rivers. Retracing the expedition's route by canoe is one of the most authentic ways to experience the Lewis and Clark story.
To preserve and protect the trail, literally, we are working to establish a network of public campsites along the entire length of the Jefferson River segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. There are several campsites on public lands, and we successfully purchased an additional 4.37-acre parcel for a public floater's camp, which we named "Shoshone Landing," near Three Forks, Montana. Our group raised $20,000 and received a grant for $45,000 from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust to purchase and fully pay for the riverfront property.
The Jefferson is a great river with beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife, good floating opportunities, and an essential stake in our nation's history. Almost all land along the river is in private hands and development is encroaching everywhere. Yet amazingly, when you get into a canoe and experience the river from the viewpoint of Lewis and Clark, you discover how much the viewshed remains intact from the river. Most of the existing development is far enough back from the river that you only experience the cottonwood ecology along the river, against a backdrop of undeveloped mountains in the distance. Floaters can experience the Jefferson River much as Lewis and Clark found it 200 years ago.
Our organization, the Jefferson River Canoe Trail, is a chapter of the nonprofit Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. We are working to make the Jefferson River corridor an experience that people can more fully appreciate. All that is needed is a few more good sites to allow floaters a quality place to get out and stretch their legs, have lunch, or stop and camp. We are working towards establishing a series of public campsites along the Jefferson River, and Shoshone Landing is our first acquisition. In addition to being utilized as a public floater's camp, the property is close to the city of Three Forks and available as a walk-in riverfront park or fishing access site.
This property was previously owned by the Masonic Lodge of Three Forks, Montana, and informally utilized by local residents. Our purchase of the property guarantees continued public access to the property, so that it can be frequented by local residents as a place to walk, fish, swim, and picnic. The property is now available as a public floater's camp for fisherman on the Jefferson River and especially by the growing number of individuals who choose to follow the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail via the water.
Canoe Trail members repaired fences and installed gates at Shoshone Landing. We planted more than one hundred trees, including cottonwood, chokecherry, dogwood, and junipers, all species that are native to the Jefferson River. We also installed two barbecue grills at the campsites. We installed an interpretive sign on the property to help educate visitors about the Lewis and Clark story. We keep the front gate locked, but we built convenient pass-throughs to enter the property and installed access signs inviting the public to enjoy Shoshone Landing. Additionally, iinclusion of the site on our Jefferson River Canoe Trail maps and website enables many more people to follow the route vicariously, enjoying the story from afar, even if they are not able to come float the river themselves.
Come experience your own Lewis and Clark adventure on the Jefferson River! The property is located along Old Town Road, not far upstream from the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers that together make up the headwaters of the Missouri River. The Jefferson River swings by the property just before passing under the bridge.