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The Missouri River
River : Overview
The Missouri River is a true Troutopia, come see for yourself
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The Missouri River begins near the town of Three Forks, formed by the confluence of the Gallatin River, the Jefferson River and the Madison River. From its origin, it travels for more than seven hundred miles across the entire length of Montana. Unlike the similarly long Yellowstone River, the Missouri River has numerous dams and diversions. More than two hundred miles of its length is composed of various reservoirs and lakes, particularly the massive Fort Peck Lake in the Montana Hi-Line region of northeast Montana.
The Missouri river at its origin flows through wide-open valleys, flanked by buttes and small mountains that are thinly forested. Grass and agricultural fields line the Missouri River, broken up by cottonwood trees right along the riverbank.
Soon after its origin, the Missouri River flows over Totson Dam. This is not a dam in the strictest sense, as it does not regulate river flows. Instead, during high water, water flows over the top of the dam, thus releasing the warmer surface water into the river below - which is not ideal for trout habitat.
Below Totson Dam, the Missouri River flows for another twenty-two miles before it reaches the thirty-miles long Canyon Ferry Reservoir near the town of Townsend, which is located about 50 miles south of Helena. The reservoir is quite large by even Montana standards, and offers numerous fly fishing and other recreational possibilities. The topography of the landscape also changes in this stretch. The valley that Canyon Ferry Reservoir is located in is truly broad in every sense of the word, flanked on the east and west sides by forested mountains that hold snow well into the summer. It is frequently very windy on the reservoir, so any angler should plan on using a motor powered boat when going out on the reservoir.
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Below the Canyon Ferry Dam, the river runs almost directly into Hauser Lake, created by Hauser Dam. Just below Hauser Dam, the river runs for only three more miles before yet another lake is encountered, this time Holter Lake. The stretch of water between Hauser Dam and Holter Lake can offer solid fly fishing for the angler willing to take the time to access this stretch.
The Missouri River finally emerges from all these dams beneath Holter Dam. This stretch of water, from Holter Dam to the town of Cascade, thirty miles downstream, is the prime trout fishing waters on the Missouri. The Missouri River in this sections runs through a valley and a canyon that has sparsely forested hillsides.
This section of the Missouri River also has a significant history. Numerous historical sites of the Lewis and Clarks expedition are found all along this stretch of river.
This section is also where the vast majority of fly fishing occurs on this river. The cold waters released by Holter Dam, which is not run entirely for the benefit of electricity production, provide excellent trout habitat. Access to the river between Holter Dam and Cascade is excellent.
Below the town of Cascade, the Missouri River broadens, slows and becomes quite twisty as it enters the plains. The water also warms. Trout, particularly brown trout, inhabit these waters. But fish populations are not very dense.
After passing through Great Falls, the Missouri River flows through a number of small dams just outside of town, before continuing on its eastward trek.
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