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Crossing the Little Missouri River

The Little Missouri River is the most unpredictable, uneven, untamed river in the region. Starting near Devils Tower in Wyoming, entering North Dakota at the far southwestern corner and heading north, the river is historic in many ways. Theodore Roosevelt wrote about it, trail drivers moving cattle up from Texas followed it, and today, it continues its own fickle and powerful course through the Badlands.

Much of the time, you can walk across it without getting your knees wet. In fact, hiking and mountain biking trails routinely cross the river.

There are times when it throws a temper tantrum and will not be ignored.  We caught it in the spring when ice was carried downstream on the flooded interstate thoroughfare. It had jumped the banks and piled up ice so thick we could get nowhere near the VVV Crossing.

ice chunks little missouri river

Looking southeast from the embankment above the VVV Crossing toward the VVV ranch.

We returned to the VVV Crossing two months later. Instead of ice on the Little Missouri River, we saw green, and lots of it.  The VVV ranch in the above photo is just barely visible in the far left edge of the lower photo.

Sun light on the LIttle Missouri River at the VVV Crossing

Looking a bit northeast from the middle of the VVV Crossing

No Bridges

There are no bridges to cross the Little Missouri River between Marmarth and Medora. That’s 100 miles between bridges.  That’s why there are low-water crossings such as the VVV Crossing next to the VVV Ranch in Slope County.  Most of the year, fall, winter and summer, the crossing is sufficient to carry farm traffic and emergency vehicles.  But when it’s impassable, it is fierce.

 

VVV crossing under water.

Under a massively powerful current and tons of ice chunks, the VVV Crossing is completely inaccessible.

Normal water levels at the VVV crossing

Another crossing similar to this is upstream (south) of Marmarth.  Another one is under discussion to be built north of Medora in Billings County.  Considering there are only a couple thousand people in any one of the counties sliced by the river, whatever crossing is built will likely not get much more than an occasional use.

That’s what makes old Highway 16, the Marmarth Road the perfect gravel road trip.  You can drive for miles and see no one, just awesome scenery on the way to the VVV Crossing as you follow the Little Missouri River.

If you’re ready for a summer experience that is quiet, peaceful, restful and beautiful, drive to the VVV Crossing. It didn’t make our list of 7 restful spots in the Badlands…but maybe next time.

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