Lower Yellowstone River
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Lower Yellowstone River, defined as downstream from Billings
to the North Dakota border, is an attractive beauty. While
it lacks the crowning peaks flanking its banks as is found
further upstream, the cliffs along the river, the cottonwood
tress and the sweep of the prairie all create a beautiful
scene. And in the fall, as the colors turn on the hardwood
trees along the river, the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana
becomes truly a beautiful sight.
Other than an occasional
odd brown trout that might be found just below Billings and
then again at the confluence with the Bighorn River, trout
will not be found in the lower Yellowstone River. It is a
warm water fishery, holding scores of large catfish, pike,
walleye and smallmouth bass. While the smallmouth bass can
be fished adequately with a fly rod, using weighted crayfish
on sinking lines, spin fishing is really the rule on the Lower
River is very big downstream from Billings, even in late summer
when the flows taper off. It is also deep and has a surprisingly
steady current even well out into the prairie. As a result,
wade fishing, except at the lowest of water during late summer,
is very restricted. Instead, float fishing, whether it be
from a raft or one of the high powered jet boats that are
occasionally found, is the prime method of fishing.
Lower Yellowstone River receives light fishing pressure, but
it does receive a low to moderate amount of use by recreational
users who bring out their boats to the river from the nearby
towns. Still, the Lower Yellowstone is hardly overrun with
boaters, and a floater has a good chance of having a sizable
portion of the river all to themselves on any float trip.
Access to the Lower
Yellowstone River is quite good. Many designated fishing access
sites exist, and most bridge crossings of the river have either
a small park or unofficial boat ramp, allowing for many places
to put-in and take-out.
Due to the fast
current of the Yellowstone River and the potential for high
winds, a float tube may not be the best "vessel".
Instead, use either a raft, inflatable kayak or a motorboat
which has a strong enough motor to fight the current. If using
a motor, just beware of the many gravel bars - they are found
everywhere on the Yellowstone River by the time August rolls
A float trip on
the Lower Yellowstone River can indeed be a long one. Other
than a handful of diversion dams, the Yellowstone River is
free of all obstacles from Billings to the North Dakota border.
Since this is more than 300 miles, an epic length float trip
is quite possible. Best of all, since the current flows at
a fairly steady pace, a floater should be able to make good
time provided the winds are not too high.
Listed below are
selected river mile points on the Lower Yellowstone River
between Billings and the North Dakota border. Please visit
the Yellowstone River floating page for river miles of the
Yellowstone River above Billings.