Paddling Montana - Third Edition  by Kit Fischer

Paddling Montana - Third Edition Guide Book

by Kit Fischer (Falcon Guides)
Paddling Montana - Third Edition  by Kit Fischer
Montana’s rivers hold a wealth of riches, and Paddling Montana, fully updated and revised, features over thirty river trips for avid paddlers, floaters, and anglers. History buffs can follow the routes of Lewis and Clark along the Missouri, the Jefferson, the Beaverhead, and the Bitterroot. Whitewater enthusiasts can head for the Gallatin or the Madison’s Beartrap Canyon.

© 2015 Kit Fischer/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Paddling Montana - Third Edition" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 37.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 37.

Sinuous and serpentine with a jungle of vegetation, the Beaverhead meanders through rock canyons and broad valleys, and offers much of interest for Lewis and Clark aficionados. Complex fishing and floating regulations are in place to alleviate crowding and overfishing. Many sections restrict the number of outfitted boats in any given reach. Excellent bird-watching or waterfowl hunting in season north of Dillon.
Twin Bridges, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 80 miles
Amber waters flowing over cobbled bottoms and through scenic valleys create on of Montana's most famous fishing rivers. Few Montana rivers have as many enthusiastic devotees as the Big Hole. This delightful river has a cult of followers that make Reverend Moon’s disciples look downright apathetic. While it doesn’t have many rapids, the river braids and winds and has some troublesome logjams and fallen trees. It’s a little too much for beginner canoeists or rafters. Fishing remains good, particularly for brown trout. The lower part of the river is an excellent spot to see mink and river otters.
Jackson, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 156 miles
An oasis of green slicing through parched land, the Bighorn rushes past scenic bluffs and thick cottonwood bottoms, providing anglers with some of Montana’s most legendary trout fishing. No motorboats from Afterbay to Bighorn. A National Park Service per-vehicle user fee or annual fee is required for floating between Afterbay and Bighorn. Permits can be purchased from automated fee machines and iron “ranger boxes” located at the south and north entrances to Bighorn Canyon.
Custer, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 84
A notably clear stream that flows over graveled bottoms and through cottonwood bottoms in a very picturesque valley. All Class I, but swift water, frequent logjams, and occasional snags above Stevensville require intermediate skills. Beginners can try below Stevensville, but avoid high flows. The Bitterroot can be floated for its entire distance, and intermediates can navigate its two forks if they can avoid logjams and maneuver through fast water. Most floaters start below the Highway 93 bridge between Conner and Darby. This upper section of the river generally has less development than below Hamilton. A catch-and-release fishing section between Darby and Como Bridge and Tucker Crossing to Florence Bridge receive heavy summertime float-fishing pressure from outfitters.
Conner, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 80 miles
The West Fork is one of western Montana’s few tailwater streams. Originating deep in the Bitterroot Mountains at Painted Rocks Reservoir, the West Fork flows offer over 20 miles of breathtaking scenery and crystal clear pools before its confluence with the East Fork near Conner. The West Fork is similar in scenery to Rock Creek and shares many of its features: crystal-clear waters, stunning scenery, and an incredibly productive fishery. What it doesn’t share are Rock Creek’s crowds. The West Fork Road is popular among motorists and is paved all the way to the reservoir. Several Forest Service campgrounds are dotted along the creek and are very popular in the summer months.
Darby, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 21.5 miles
The Blackfoot is a glacial stream, lined with large rocks, that occasionally gets squeezed into short canyons. The result is a dashingly beautiful stream that provides outstanding whitewater excitement, incredible scenery, and dependable fishing. It’s Missoula’s favorite recreational river, and there’s no better place on a hot summer day. Few float between Lincoln and River Junction. In summer, go early in the morning before the river warms enough to attract inner-tubers and swimmers. Great diving rock and swimming hole at Rainbow Bend Road.
Missoula, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 132 miles
The Boulder rushes through spectacular cottonwood bottoms before joining the mighty Yellowstone near Big Timber. Floating begins downstream of Natural Bridge Falls. Not to be confused with the Boulder River that joins the Jefferson near Cardwell. The floating season is somewhat short on the Boulder, with most of it occurring in July. By mid-August the Boulder is often heavily dewatered for agricultural uses, and floating is impossible. More water enters near Boulder Forks and is often a safer bet at lower flows; however, a couple of irrigation ditches take significant amounts of water from the lower river.
Big Timber, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 65 miles
The Bull gently meanders through lush grasslands and timbered bottoms before reaching the Cabinet Gorge Reservoir in northwest Montana. What the Bull River lacks in length (a measly 25 river miles), it gains in beauty. Tucked against the Cabinet Mountains, the Bull slowly meanders through lowland grassy meadows and lush cedar forests. The bottomland abounds with wildlife. Moose, deer, bears, waterfowl, and abundant songbirds take advantage of the rich bottomland. Grizzly bears have been sighted in this area, and floaters should remain aware when on the river.
Noxon, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 25 miles
The Clark Fork starts out small, but exits the state as Montana's largest river. It meanders through pastures and woodlands with I-90 paralleling much of its route. The river is mostly Class I water except for a difficult whitewater section through the Alberton Gorge that has Class III and IV rapids. Other than the gorge, practiced beginners can handle much of the Clark Fork. Excellent waterfowl hunting between old Harper Bridge and Huson. Good fall fishing below Forest Grove.
Missoula, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 333 miles
East of Yellowstone National Park in the shadow of the Beartooth Mountains, the Clarks Fork meanders through isolated cottonwood groves and beautiful prairie country. This river is Class I for its entire length in Montana (the whitewater is in Wyoming). Suitable for practiced beginners at normal flows. This is the perfect trip for those seeking solitude and good wildlife viewing. It’s what most Montana rivers were like 30 years ago. The river does not fish especially well in summer months due to high water temperatures and muddier flows due to irrigation returns. Most fishing takes place upstream from Bridger, where the river is clearer.
Laurel, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 73 miles
This aptly named river flows through pine forests and mountain meadows with the famous Bob Marshall Wilderness to the east and the towering Mission Mountains to the west. Its mostly a Class I river suitable for practiced beginners. Watch migrating songbirds along the Clearwater Canoe Trail in the spring. This is a great trip for beginners. Even kids can handle the placid flows here. There’s also good floating and easy access between Seeley and Salmon Lakes. Fishing can be good in this section.
Greenough, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 42 miles
Crystal-clear waters rush through narrow canyons with sheer walls and spectacular rock formations on this highly scenic small stream. While many people do this lower section in one day, if you take much time for photography, fishing, or swimming, you won’t make it. The Dearborn Canyon is so spectacular that you will want to take your time, but public land camping opportunities are extremely limited, which makes it difficult to stay overnight on the river. The typical Dearborn River float season is quite short. The water is often high and dirty into early June, and it often gets too low to float by mid-July. The river offers excellent fly fishing for small rainbows and some cutthroats.
Lincoln, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 67 miles
This wide river with aquamarine waters flows tranquilly past the spectacular Mission Mountains. Its almost all Class I water except for a whitewater section (Buffalo Rapids) with Class III and IV rapids immediately below where the river exits Flathead Lake. Most of the river flows through the Flathead Indian Reservation; floaters age 12 and older need a tribal recreational use permit on the section of river within the reservation. No motors on the reservation (Kerr Dam to 7 miles downstream from Perma Bridge) March 15 to June 30. Motors over 15 horsepower prohibited at all times. No camping on islands within the Flathead Reservation.
Paradise, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 158 miles
Originating in Yellowstone National Park, the alpine-like Gallatin River provides great whitewater and good fishing as it courses through one of the most scenic valleys in Montana. The Gallatin River actually consists of two forks, the East Gallatin and the West Gallatin rivers. Because of the West Gallatin is substantially larger, it's generally recognized as the mainstream river. while both branches are floatable, they differ sharply in character. A difficult whitewater stream with Class II, III, and IV rapids in the upper 40 miles. Very technical, experts only at high flow. Great fall duck hunting from Logan to Trident. A birder's paradise.
Three Forks, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing,Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 100 miles
Once traversed for its entire distance by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the Jefferson meanders peaceably through thick cottonwood bottoms while providing good fishing and excellent wildlife viewing. This river is suitable for practiced beginners its entire length. Although the Jefferson is usually clear in late summer and fall, rainstorms can muddy the river in short order. In addition, excessive nutrients in the water often foster rapid growth of algae in summer, creating a nuisance for anglers and swimmers. In late summer the river can be too low to float due to heavy agricultural irrigation in the valley.
Trident, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 83 miles
This excellent canoeing stream flows through isolated breaks country that features white cliffs, deep coulees, and peculiar rock formations. The river is mostly Class I, except for a 1-mile Class II rapid beginning a mile upstream from the Montana Highway 81 bridge. Suitable for intermediates in canoes or practiced beginners in rafts. In a normal year, floating on the Judith is possible until mid-July (it can pick up with fall rains). If you see lots of rocks above the surface and the water looks low just above the Highway 81 bridge, you should definitely not try the float between Danvers Bridge and the Highway 81 bridge.
Big Sandy, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 130 miles
This big, clear river courses through heavily-forested mountains, providing good fishing and excellent scenery along the way. Scenes from the movie "The River Wild" were filmed here. The river is mostly Class I, with a couple of difficult sections that are Class II and III. China Rapids and Kootenai Falls Gorge are Class IV and V. Floating on the Kootenai starts below Libby Dam and continues to the Idaho border and beyond. Small aluminum boats, canoes, and rafts all work well. While most of the river is broad and swift-flowing, occasional rapids and big standing waves require some caution. Jennings rapid, just below the Fisher River, requires care. Because of the fluctuations in the amount of water discharged from Koocanusa Reservoir, river levels can rise sharply, by as much as 2 to 4 feet. Because of these fluctuations and occasional rapids, beginners should steer clear of the Kootenai above the falls.
Libby, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing,Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 100 miles
Montana's most famous fishing river, the rapid-flowing Madison cuts a beautiful swath through a broad valley, passing by lush meadows and broken timber. The river is all Class I except for two sections (below quake Lake and Bear Trap Canyon) that have difficult rapids. Fish the often-neglected lower river in spring and fall when water temperatures are cool. The entire river has seemingly recovered from whirling disease that especially crippled the fishing on the upper river, which is predominantly a rainbow fishery. But don’t pass up the lower river either, where large brown trout are more common. Be sure to fish the side channels.
Three Forks, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing,Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 133 miles
The isolated Marias River originates east of Glacier National Park and features spectacular badlands and sandstone cliffs reminiscent of the Missouri River. Its suitable for beginners its entire length. Summers along the Marias are generally short, but they can be devilishly hot. This area experiences extreme temperature fluctuations, and water temperatures in the river can get very warm in summer. Natural siltation, along with irrigation returns, accounts for the poor water quality found in most of the river.
Cut Bank, MT - Flatwater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 171 miles
A picturesque wilderness whitewater river, the Middle Fork is both extremely challenging and remote. The Middle Fork roars through the Bob Marshall Wilderness and forms the southern border of Glacier National Park. Extremely difficult whitewater in the wilderness section, with Class IV rapids or better at peak flows. Experts only. Class II, III, and IV rapids outside the wilderness. The Middle Fork is one of Montana’s best-protected rivers. It flows through the wilderness for half its length, and it forms the southern border of Glacier National Park for the other half. The biggest problem this river faces is potential overuse, but the Forest Service so far has done an excellent job of managing people problems.
Hungry Horse, MT - Whitewater Kayaking & Canoeing - Trail Length: 90 miles