Montana Whitewater Rafting

Montana is Big Sky Country and home to some outstanding Western whitewater rafting trips. The rivers found in Montana are steeped in history and offer abundant wildlife and incredible mountain scenery. The Bitterroot River was originally named "Clark's River" by the famous exploration party of Lewis & Clark and offers an exciting rafting trip. The Blackfoot River, romanticized in the Novel A River Runs Through It, is a combination of exciting whitewater and beautiful scenery in a wilderness setting.

The Clark Fork River is noted as being one of Montana's finest rafting rivers. Located deep in the Alberton Gorge, the Clark Fork is a great trip for whitewater rafters of all ability levels. The Madison River, Flathead River and Yellowstone River all offer outstanding Montana rafting and incredible scenery.

Whitewater rafting in Montana is a rafters's paradise for many reasons. Montana's Rockies give rise to some of the finest, whitewater rafting and fishing rivers in the world. The Big Sky State is a place to rejoice in the wilderness, to commune with nature, to recall the wild and woolly West and retrace the routes taken by early explorers. Here are the sources of the mighty Missouri and its great tributary, the Yellowstone. These two rivers drain six-sevenths of the state and flow majestically across the great arid plain that comprises more than half of Montana. Their headwater streams, the Big Hole, the Beaverhead, the Jefferson, the Madison, the Gallatin, the Smith and the Bighorn, provide some of the best whitewater rafting in the Montana. And there is some good rafting on the western side of the continental divide, where the Bitterroot, the Blackfoot and the three-pronged Flathead converge on the Clark Fork.

Whitewater Rafting in Montana on the Blackfoot River

Also very popular whitewater rafting in Montana is the Blackfoot River, especially in its lower stretches. One favorite outing is a six-mile trip at Johnsrud State Park. It has Class III rapids in May and June but can be run all Summer long. The most difficult white water on the Blackfoot is further upstream, above the confluence with the Clearwater.

Whitewater rafting in Montana has seen many changes. The Clark Fork itself has been much cleaned up since the grim fish kills caused by pollution in earlier years. Its trout and other aquatic life have returned in strength, and the river has become another popular whitewater rafting run in western Montana. The 22-mile run starting at Alberton Gorge in Mineral County - again not far from Missoula - is a good Class II-III trip runnable all year round except when the river is frozen. It is tricky at peak water levels, when the rapids come close to Class V, but whitewater rafting in Montana in this area is quite safe in July and August.

Further north, on the fringe of Glacier National Park, the Flathead offers varied whitewater on its Main Stem, Middle Fork and North Fork. The Main Stem has a Class III six-mile run just below Flathead Lake for which a permit is needed from the Flathead Indian Reservation. This is a scenic journey between high cliffs that provide nesting sites for birds of prey. Following this Buffalo Rapids stretch, the entire lower portion of the river is rafting on clear water for a welcomed rest past rocky bluffs, the beautiful badlands and gem-like wildflowers and many species of birds.

Whitewater Rafting in Montana on the Flathead River

The Middle Fork of the Flathead is reputedly the wildest whitewater rafting in Montana. Its remote upper section is too rugged for most rafters in May, when its flow may surge from a low level of 900 cubic feet per second to more than 11,000 cfs. But in June and July it poses a tempting Class III-IV challenge for experienced rafters. Access to this wilderness grizzly-bear region is by plane to the Schaefer Meadows airstrip. Further downstream, the non-wilderness section of the Middle Fork is more frequented because of its easy access. This, too has whitewater rapids that demand expertise, notably in the John Stevens Canyon run where the narrow stream drops thirty-five feet per mile along a five-mile stretch.

The Madison takes the rafter through Bear Trap Canyon, a whitewater wilderness run which includes Kitchen Sink, a Class IV rapid. This is great fishing territory, and a great stop at the end of the day to wallow in the water of the Bear Trap Hot Springs. Also heading northward from Yellowstone National Park to join the Missouri is the Gallatin, with its deep canyon and continuous Class III whitewater.

The Yellowstone, the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states, is famous both for its history in pioneer days and its fishing. The upstream stretch from Gardiner, where the river leaves the Yellowstone Park, down to Livingston is known as Paradise Valley. It runs between the jagged Absaroka Mountains and the Gallatin Range and is alive with trout, Canada geese, eagles and deer. One of its highlights is Yankee Jim Canyon, a four-mile whitewater rafting in Montana stretch that attracts many summer rafters. Less crowded is the next section be¬tween Livingston and Big Timber, where the river begins to braid. Then the Yellowstone changes gradually to a warm prairie river, earning its name from the yellowish bluffs on its flanks and attracting a wide range of wildlife.

Whitewater rafting in Montana offers so much for outdoor enthusiasts. You have a choice of great whitewater rafting while stopping to fly fish surrounded by lush conifer forests. The State is rich with wild life from grizzlies, mule deer to riverbank minks and the wild flowers sparkle beneath the peaks of snow capped mountains. Montana’s whitewater guides are said to be some of the best and most devoted in the country. You will want to book your trip for several days.

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