This summer is a HOT one! And I’m not talking about chicken wings! I’m talking about the summer weather here in Montana. Although today is forecast as a rainy one, Sunday is up at 86 degrees! I bet you’re thinking there’s nothing better than sitting on a tube, floating down the river, and soaking up some SUN! Here’s a few of the best floating spots near you!
This river has over 550 floatable miles, many of these miles being far away from railroad tracks. This makes it a pristine and fairly quiet journey. You’ll need to obtain a Yellowstone National Park Boat Permit, and you won’t be able to go through the actual park, for obvious reasons. However, if you put in at Gardiner, you’ll be at the very start of float access. There are also islands and secondary channels, for lots of adventure along your way.
There’s some good places to put in along this route, but the best bet is to start at Columbus Itch-Kep-Pe Park. Taking out will be a bit of a long stretch, but with the right equipment and flow rate, it’s achievable in just one day. If you’re up for 23-29 miles of floating, take out at Buffalo Mirage Fishing Access Site, or Laurel Riverside Park.
Most commonly floated from the Hannon Memorial downstream to the Clark Fork just west of Missoula, this float is perfect for the more Western Montanans. This float is just gorgeous, with plenty of forest scenery surrounding you as you drift by. You’re closest to the charming Montana city of Darby.
Lots of float companies, like Bitterroot Rafting Adventures allow you the ease of a guide and all the equipment needed to have a scenic and relaxing float. Depending on where you put in and take out, there’s plenty of options for length of float. If you put in at Hannon Memorial, you can easily take out at the Woodside ramp which is about 26 miles, but there’s stops in between if that’s a little daunting to you.
Most of this river is closed to float fishing, but recreational floating is completely welcome. This river is near Bozeman, which is a great spot to hang out with the hip kids. You can hire a guide to help with your floating adventures, or just map it out yourself if you so desire. You can start at Gallatin Lake, which is within Yellowstone National Park, and float into the Missouri river. The access to the river is easy, because the land surrounding is mostly public access.
CLARK FORK RIVER
This may be the most beginner friendly float, because you’lll float your way right into Missoula, regardless of equipment or route that you take. Clark Fork Yacht Club hosts guided floats to make it even more user friendly! You’ll be putting in at the Sha-Ron river access in East Missoula, and from there you can sit back and relax.
It should take about 2-3 hours to float from there into town, and from there you’ll be downtown with lots of options for food, drink, and shopping! Parking at the access point can be a nightmare, so you’ll either want to arrange a ride, take a shuttle from the Yacht Club, or keep that in mind when you’re driving up.
MIDDLE FORK FLATHEAD RIVER
No permits required for floating recreationally, and several outfitters that offer guided trips, this float is great for those seeking a forest experience. Moreso documented and utilized as a rafting river, there’s some pretty substantial rapids along this float to be aware of. You can’t raft inside the closest national park, which is Glacier, but you can float along the southern and western borders!
Well, hopefully this gave you a better idea of what kind of floating is available to you in Montana! There’s plenty more options, these are just a few that stood out to me! For more info on float fishing, check out Angela Montana’s great piece on it!! Make sure you’re bringing everything you’ll need to stay safe, hydrated, and fed along your float! Best of luck!