"Five Months on the Missouri River"
Author Wins Writer's Digest First Place Award
December 2, 2020 | View PDF
Pony, MT - Writer's Digest awarded Montana author Thomas J. Elpel first place in nonfiction for his natural history travelogue, "Five Months on the Missouri River: Paddling a Dugout Canoe." Elpel partnered with Churchill Clark, the great-great-great-great grandson of Captain William Clark to carve the canoe. Together they whittled a 10,000 lb. Douglas fir log into a 500+ lb. canoe.
Enlisting friends with additional canoes to join the adventure, Elpel led a five-month "Missouri River Corps of Rediscovery" expedition, paddling the 2,341-mile Missouri River segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail from Montana to St. Louis.
Instead of racing to the finish line, Elpel and friends paddled the Missouri River as a conduit for exploring the land and meeting its inhabitants. Every campsite offered a new opportunity to hike and explore the landscape and geology, identify plants, and forage for wild foods. They enjoyed a leisurely pace paddling through the heart of America while diving into Lewis and Clark history and the history of Native American tribes along the route.
Throughout the journey, Elpel wrote a weekly column that was published in newspapers in Montana and across the Midwest. He fleshed out the story for the book, filling in additional details and whole new essays, accompanied by 700 stunning color photos from the adventure. The finished book is an uplifting adventure story and coffee table photo journal, an inspiring page-turner for the whole family.
"Tom's extensive knowledge of plants and the natural world, his love of history and the river are expressed here on every page as if Lewis and Clark stepped into the 21st Century. The stunning images and narrative are breathtaking and inspiring, seen through the eyes of Elpel as he traveled aboard a beautiful dugout canoe through the heart of America."
Expedition Paddler and Historian
"Five Months on the Missouri River" also won the National Indie Excellence Award for Best Travel Book and was a finalist in the Travel Guides & Essays for the 2020 Best Book Awards.