Larry Campbell is an explorer. In 2016, the seventy-year-old mathematician made the same epic journey along the Missouri River as Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery—except he traveled solo, in reverse from Idaho to Missouri—and not exactly roughing it. He traveled by car and stayed mostly in hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, but there was one night he stayed in a ten-by-ten-foot “castle” with no electricity at Pony, Montana.

“What a great view of the Milky Way,” he says. “It almost made up for the 100-yard trek to the outhouse.”

A retired math professor from Missouri State University at Springfield, Larry lives in Branson. His inspiration for the trip came from reading Roadtrip with a Raindrop: 90 Days Along the Mississippi River, by Gayle Harper. He was entranced by the idea of her journey, got to meet her, and resolved to do the same kind of journey along the Missouri River.

He started his adventure at the headwaters of the Missouri—the real headwaters at Hell Roaring Creek near Red Rock Pass, Idaho, not the official source, which is in Three Forks, Montana, just below the confluence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin Rivers. Lewis and Clark named these tributaries, and that has marked the official source ever since.

Campbell’s journey ended seven weeks later at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers just north of St. Louis.

Upon his return, like Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Larry compiled a journal of his stories and found a publisher. The book is divided into sections and contains maps of the entire river and places he stayed. The real stars of the book, though, are Larry’s photographs of the river and his stories of the people he met. There are almost two hundred photographs in the book. “It was fascinating to watch how the river grew from that small creek near the Idaho and Montana border,” he says.

In short stories, the reader will meet some of the same people Larry met, from ferryboat operators to the only resident of Virgelle, Montana, who runs a store in one of only two buildings left in town and holds well-known antiques auctions there two times a year.

Larry didn’t intend for his trip to be Lewis and Clark in reverse, but he says “You can’t go ten feet along the river without running into them, and it was fascinating to be standing in places where they stood.”

The book’s charm lies in the adventures he had along the way and the sights he saw. One photo shows a bridge at Atchison, Kansas, lit so that at night, the reflection on the river looks like an American flag. The photographs and stories make an entertaining read for anyone. ROAD TRIP Branson author Larry Campbell chronicles his journey along and across the Missouri River.

Down the River by the Numbers

During his drive, the author and mathematician:

  • Crossed 2 of 3 remaining free ferries on the Missouri River
  • Saw 4 state capitals along the river: Helena, Montana; Bismarck, North Dakota; Pierre, South Dakota; Jefferson City, Missouri
  • Visited 9 states: Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri
  • Went through 27 towns and stayed in 23
  • Traveled 51 days
  • Encountered 80 bridges over the river
  • Took 4,500+ pictures
  • Journeyed 6,271 miles door-to-door

This book comes out late June, and the author is offering readers of Missouri Life a 10 percent discount and an autographed copy on prepublication orders. Visit