Best Places to Experience the Beauty of the Missouri River

Winding its way through seven states, the beautiful Missouri River provides scenic routes and fun recreational activities for Midwesterners. It’s also surrounded by bluffs, plains, and forests that boast breathtaking views of nature. Whether you experience the river by heading out on the water, driving along the shore, or hiking close to the water’s edge, the Missouri River is not to be missed and can create lasting memories for both you and your family.

Water Activities

The Missouri River is perfect for water sports and has several places for kayaking and canoeing activities. One of the best locations to start a kayak or canoe journey is at the Ft. Randall Dam Spillway in South Dakota, which is the starting point of the Missouri National Recreational River Water Trail. With smooth waters and peaceful streams, you and your family can glide down the river and observe the gorgeous, natural scenery that the Midwest has to offer. Stops along the way might include Sunshine Bottom, Running Water, Riverside Park, and Rosenbaum.

If you’re a fishing enthusiast, head on over to Kansas City in Missouri for plenty of fishing spots right on the river. Here, you’ll have a chance to catch large Flathead Catfish, Blue Catfish, Common Carp, and Shovelnose Sturgeon. If you’re lucky, you could reel in a Walleye or Striped Bass as well. Just be sure to bring your camera for the great views of the river.

Hiking or Biking

For those who are craving adventure along the river, be sure to visit the Bow Creek Recreation Area in Cedar County, which is two miles from Wynot, Nebraska. You’ll find many different trails here that are excellent for hiking or biking along the river as well. And if you’re a fan of bridges overlooking the water, you’ll also want to walk the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge, a footbridge that spans the river between Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska, which is ideal for bikers.

Another favorite spot for walking or biking is the Daniel Boone Bridge on the Monarch Levee Trail in Missouri and has lovely views of both the river and stretch of greenery surrounding the area. And while you’re in Missouri, try visiting the Missouri River Valley. It contains several vineyards, farms, forests, and trails that are a great location for hikers.

Driving

Driving along the Missouri River can be a relaxing experience, and the best place to start would be in the state of Montana. You can begin at Fort Benton and follow the river downstate through several charming towns. If you drive the 41-mile trek to Great Falls, you can experience the Giant Springs State Park, boating activities, bird watching, and more.

Other enjoyable road trips include The Wild & Scenic Middle Missouri River, which is a car tour that winds its way through South Dakota and Nebraska. It begins at the Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge and runs for 65-miles to the Fort Randall Historic site. The scenic roads take you close to the river’s edge and provide interesting history facts of the Ponca Indians and exhibits relating to Lewis and Clark.

5 Most Charming Towns Along the Missouri River

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America and flows through many different states. Starting from the Rocky Mountains of Montana, it runs amidst the green pastures and plains of the Midwest and along idyllic communities in the region. And for some the most charming towns that can be found along the Missouri River’s shores, check out our top five picks below.

1. Great Falls & Fort Benton

Starting upriver in western Montana, our first recommendation is to visit the beautiful town of Great Falls. Most visitors are drawn to this area for the scenic Benton Lake Wildlife Refuge, which is especially popular for bird watchers, as well as the nearby Montana State Park. The town’s River’s Edge Trail runs along the Missouri River for 24-miles and is a popular destination for hikers and bikers and even boasts a Lewis & Clark National Trail Center.

Only 40-miles away from Great Falls is the quaint town of Fort Benton, which is known as the “Birthplace of Montana.” And with historical sights, riverside views, and a sculpture park, it’s also an ideal place to visit for beautiful scenery and a charming atmosphere.

2. Washburn

Washburn sits in central North Dakota on the Missouri River and is famous for its world championship pheasant hunting. With large fields and prairies along the river, this peaceful town is home to the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center and the restored Fort Mandan, which hosts fun living-history events around the year. And along with learning about the history of the region, visitors can also walk the tranquil Sakakawea Scenic Byway that rolls along the Missouri River Valley, providing breathtaking views and sunset strolls that can be enjoyed by friends and family.

3. Nebraska City

This cute Nebraskan town is filled with family fun and is a perfect spot along the Missouri River. With plenty of orchards, vineyards, and wineries, the city comes alive in the fall and is a beautiful sight to see when the leaves change color. On the northwest side of town, you’ll find the prominent Arbor Lodge State Historical Park where its beautiful mansion has been turned into a fully functioning lodge. And with unique museums such as the Kregel Windmill Museum and Nebraska City Museum of Firefighting, this family-oriented town has something for all ages.

4. Sioux City

Although Sioux City has a large population and a growing community, it also has a charming small-town atmosphere among Iowan residents. With seasonal craft fairs, theater performances, and outdoor concerts, this Midwest city has many activities going on throughout the year. It also boasts the Sioux City Art Center and the historic Orpheum Theatre, which brings in world-class performers and artists to the delight of both tourists and locals alike. And with plenty to see and do in the area, it’s a must-see when traveling along the Missouri River.

5. Rocheport

With gorgeous overlooks of the river, peaceful trails that wind through forests, and a number of dirt bike paths, you’ll find plenty of natural scenery in Rocheport, Missouri. Visitors here love exploring the downtown streets that contain antique shops, quaint bed and breakfasts, and local art galleries. Rocheport is also situated in the heart of Missouri wine country and includes the popular Les Bourgeois Vineyard & Winery, which hosts regular tastings, concerts, and other fun events. It’s an excellent town to visit along the river and perfect for a weekend vacation away with loved ones.