Montana Fly Fishing
The Milk River

Milk River below Fresno Dam

The Milk River : Fly Fishing & Overview

Milk River at Fresno Dam near Havre
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The Milk River begins near Browning, Montana, at the confluence of the North and South Forks Milk River, on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It angles in a northeast direction and enters Canada fifty miles from its origin. Unique among most rivers, the Milk River returns to Montana 168 miles later. The river soon enters Fresno Reservoir near Havre, a popular recreational spot for locals.

Below Fresno Dam, the Milk River continues flowing through the very open, desolate but yet beautiful Montana prairie. Access points are infrequent and widely scattered. After more traveling more than 700 hundred miles from its origin, the Milk River finally empties into the Missouri River downstream from Fort Peck Dam.

For floaters, the Milk River provides an absolutely wonderful way to achieve solitude. While floating can begin near its origin, as the river first flows through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and then enters Canada (floating through to Canada is not allowed), the best place to begin floating is below Fresno Dam, near the town of Havre.

Milk River seen from top of Tiber Dam
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There are no rapids or whitewater on the Milk River, making it the perfect river for inflatable kayaks and canoes. While the river is fairly wide and can easily support large rafts, the frequent slow current and very windy conditions can make rafting difficult at times. Other than an occasional irrigation jetty or small diversion dam that needs to be portaged, no obstacles exist on the Milk River to hamper floating below Fresno Dam (although some fences are likely to be encountered).

A floater down the Milk River will find plenty of solitude. Access points are widely scattered, and its location in the Montana prairie means few towns or people will be around.

Trout fishing on the Milk River is poor, at best. While some fishing for small brook and rainbow trout can be had on the river near its origin, the fish are small and access is extremely difficult. No trails follow the river, and the nearest access point to the upper portion of the Milk River is more than thirty miles downstream at a highway bridge crossing. The countryside is also incredibly bushy making off trail travel problematic.

Some trout fishing can also be had directly below Fresno Dam. However, unlike the Marias River, which has very good brown trout fishing below Tiber Dam, the Milk River has only fair to poor trout fishing beneath Fresno Dam. While a few trout can be found, predominantly brown trout near the dam, the Milk River is by and large a warm water fishing river.

For warm water fishing, smallmouth bass are abundant on the Milk River, and make for lots of fun when fly fishing using crayfishes. Catfish, sturgeon, whitefish and pike are also common in the Milk River.

Overall, the Milk River is a far cry from a destination spot for anglers on a Montana fly fishing trip. However, it makes a fine floating river for people who want to be well away from the crowds and who enjoy the wide open and rolling prairie.

Milk River : River Miles

Origin: 704
Highway 213 Bridge: 684
Canadian Border: 656
US Border: 490
Fresno Reservoir Inlet: 458
Bridge: 455
Fresno Dam: 437
Upper Rookery Access Site: 430
Rookery Access Site: 424
Havre Dam: 420
East Havre Dam: 414
Highway 2 Bridge Access: 390
Highway 529 Bridge: 383
Highway 240 Bridge: 379
Zurich Road Bridge: 362
County Road Bridge near Harlem: 343
Savoy Road Bridge: 310
Coburg Road Bridge: 293
County Road Bridge near Dodson: 268
Malta Access Site: 230
Nelson Reservoir Bridge: 177
Highway 243 Bridge: 164
Hinsdale Access Site: 130
Highway 2 Bridge: 124
Vandalia Road Bridge: 110
Highway 246 Bridge: 71
Highway 24 Bridge: 56
Highway 117 Bridge (near Nashua): 23
Confluence with Missouri River: 0

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