09 Feb Connie’s Bottom and how it got its name
Where is Connie’s Bottom?
On most of MRO’s six-day trips, (our Lower River trips), we usually spend a delightful evening camped near a lone, old-growth cottonwood. It’s in a beautiful spot just above the river that guide’s call “Connie’s Bottom.” Yet nowhere on a BLM, state of Montana, GPS, or USGS topographic map will you find that name. Like many western locales, this special place comes with some colorful lore as to how it got its name. Officially, it is nameless. It is located just across the river from “Little Dog Rapids” and about a mile or so upriver from McClellan-Stafford ferry. A ferry that we consider fair weather travel ONLY.
On a hot summer day, it is ideal for an MRO original “diaper float”. To start the float we trek up the channel on land and attach our PFDs (“personal flotation devices”). However, It is characterized by attaching our PFD’s upside down and backwards, hence the diaper appearance. We then enjoy a leisure float back down the channel with a properly stabilized cold beverage in hand. Besides for the perfect float location, Connie’s Bottom has shallow and submerged rocks that guard the end of the channel. The rocks are perfect for sitting and enjoying a much-appreciated river bath. The lone cottonwood tree above provides plenty of shade for evening relaxation. Sunsets and sunrises at Connie’s can often be breathtaking and unforgettable.
page 51. Take small channel to the right. The campsite is located on the small piece of public land at the tip of the right hand side.
Why is it named Connie’s Bottom?
Back to the name itself. Decades ago, local high schoolers from Fort Benton, Winifred and Little Sandy often used the site for end-of-the-year festivities. We are sure it has seen its fair share of kegs with cold beer, loud music and young antics. At one point, there was even an old discarded couch that sat under the shade of the old lone tree. If only it could speak, the secrets it might’ve revealed . . . .
In 1979 Lanny Walker (a former MRO guide) was enjoying his annual July canoe trip down the Missouri River Breaks, when a group of young women waived them in to come enjoy a cold beer. It didn’t take much enticing for Lanny and his friends to park their canoe and join the party. It was a quick stop, as they had to gain a few more miles before the day ended. But before they left Lanny was struck by a contagious laughter. A laughter so unique and mesmerizing that it can be deemed as unforgettable. Before he could meet the girl with the beautiful laughter he was rushed into the canoe by his friends and off they went.
Fate was set and 9 years later Lanny heard that laughter again and instantly recognized it. In 1986, Lanny was working at the Lewistown USDA office when a young women named Connie was hired as a secretary. Little did she know, Lanny remembered her form years past. Although they never officially met on that hot July day, that laugh was unforgettable.
The rest, they say, is history.
Lanny and Connie were soon married in 1988 and have been for nearly 40 years. Hence, one evening when Lanny told an MRO group the story under the cottonwood tree about how, in this place, he met his future wife. We all decided that the heretofore unnamed campsite would forever afterwards bear the now much more romantic moniker of “Connie’s Bottom.”
After hearing the tale, Connie Walker was both mildly amused and mildly annoyed (“oh thanks, you’re naming a spot for my butt!”). But….. the more the story gets told, the more it gets reinforced as part of our river tradition (even if the details sometimes get a bit rearranged with the telling and retelling). Regardless, it is a beautiful spot and an MRO fixture now.