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By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

Corps of Rediscovery Book Now Available


Tom Elpel is pictured with his new book "Five Months on the Missouri River: Paddling a Dugout Canoe. Courtesy photo

In June of 2019, Thomas Elpel of Pony led a small expedition down the 2,341-mile length of the Missouri River from Three Forks to St. Louis. During this five-month journey, Elpel shared his story with local residents in weekly columns that appeared in both the Whitehall Ledger and Three Forks Voice newspapers.

Late last week, Elpel announced his book about the journey "Five Months on the Missouri River: Paddling a Dugout Canoe" had arrived from the printer. The full-color book features 270 pages and over 700 photos.

Elpel is really excited about the finished product he describes as close as you can get to experience the full length of America's longest river without having yet paddled it yourself.

"It really turned out gorgeous, better than I really could have imagined," he said. "I put hundreds of hours into a project like this, but I never really know what I'm going to have until I see it in print and I'm holding it in my hand. I have to say this is the most beautiful book I've ever published. I'm excited about that. The colors are vibrant, the pictures just pop off the page, and when I flip through the book I just want to sit down and read it again although I've read it a million times already. I'm super excited about this."

According to Elpel, this whole journey began when he teamed up with Churchill Clark, the great great great great grandson of Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The two teamed up and took a whole spring and summer to carve out a canoe out of 10,000-pound Douglas Fir log.

Elpel then enlisted friends and former students to join him on a Missouri River: Corps of Rediscovery to paddle down the river and to explore much like Lewis and Clark did 200 years ago.

"In other words, the goal wasn't just to get to the end, but to really truly experience the river along the way by getting out and hiking, studying the plants, foraging for wild foods, seeing the wildlife, discovering the history and meeting people along the way," he said. "Paddling the Missouri River is like exploring a 2,000-mile National park, so whether you are an avid paddler who dreams of doing the Missouri River yourself or an armchair adventurer, I invited you to join us for the adventure of a lifetime."

Elpel would like to have the book in local stores soon, and it can also be purchased at


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