Fork : Floating Information
Eagle Inflatable Kayaks -
An inflatable kayak is a wonderful way to both float and fish the
many rivers in Montana. You can also learn more about inflatable
kayaks in our Inflatable
Kayak Guide, too. I own a Sea Eagle Kayak and highly
The Clark Fork
in Montana has a somewhat nasty reputation among most anglers and floaters
due to its past and continuing environmental problems. As a result,
fishing and floating pressure for most of its length is fairly light
in comparison to other prime Montana rivers.
Floating or rafting the Clark
Fork can begin as far up as its origin, in the Warm Springs Wildlife
Management Area, although the section between its origin and Garrison
has fairly slow water. The Clark Fork also resembles more of a spring
creek than a river for its first twenty miles. As a result, only very
small rafts, inflatable
kayaks (the best bet) or canoes will
work well when floating from the headwaters. Anyone who plans on floating
between its origin and Galen should be prepared for some portages around
obstructions, lots of overhanding brush and some general frustrations
in general. It is not an easy float. Below Galen, the Clark Fork becomes
more friendly to floating during normal water levels.
Upstream from Deer Lodge, Montana, the Clark Fork gradually picks up flows until it begins to
resemble a decent sized river, albeit frequently a shallow one due
to irrigation use. Later in the summer, this part of the Clark Fork
may be unfloatable due to heavy irrigation use, so be sure to check
river flows. Downstream from Deer Lodge, at Garrison, the Little
Blackfoot River empties into the Clark Fork, increasing flows and
providing for solid and consistent rafting conditions year round.
Below Drummond, pressure on
the Clark Fork increases as more float parties use the river for fishing
and pleasure. Access sites between Drummond and Milltown Dam are somewhat
sparse and widely spaced apart. However, by using the road on the north
side of the Clark Fork, float parties using smaller boats can easily
drag their boats down the banks and plop them in the river. Inflatable
rafts, kayaks and
be the best bet for this - disaster likely awaits any floater trying
this with a drift boat.
Twenty-five miles below Drummond
and just above the Beavertail Hill access site, a diversion dam must
The Clark Fork continues flowing
through the forested canyon below the diversion dam, picking up the
waters of Rock Creek ten
miles downstream from the diversion dam. It then picks up the flows
of the Blackfoot
River another fifteen miles further downstream.
Below Milltown Dam (hopefully soon to be fully removed), the river
begins to make its way through Missoula.
The Clark Fork divides into two channels in Missoula. To avoid a diversion
dam and a portage, use the left channel.
the Clark Fork continues another 35 miles with somewhat sparse access
to Alberton, where the first of the whitewater on the river begins.
Between Alberton and the Tarkio Access Site, a distance of sixteen
miles, the river has many whitewater sections. Depending on river flows,
the whitewater can hit Class IV difficulty. In general, the higher
the flows the more difficult the rapids will be, so check current river
flows before rafting this stretch of river.
Canoes are not recommended
on this section of river, and only intermediates and above should
take rafts down this stretch. During sunny weekend days, this section
of the Clark Fork receives heavy use from recreational floaters, with
theTarkio Access Site (the popular takeout spot) resembling controlled chaos.
Following this stretch of whitewater, the Clark Fork continues for another thirty miles
until its confluence with the St. Regis River, where the Clark
Fork leaves the Interstate behind. This section of the Clark Fork
offers a very scenic float for thirty-five miles to the town of
Plains. One stretch of whitewater exists, depending on river flows,
18 miles downstream from the St. Regis River confluence.
Five miles downstream
from Plains, the Clark Fork has a short Class II and a Class III
rapid. Below these small rapids, the river continues to Thompson
Falls. Floating essentially ceases at Thompson Falls, as several
dams back up the river and form a chain of lakes all the way down
to the Idaho border.
Selected River Miles for the Clark Fork
Listed below are selected
river miles for the Clark Fork in Montana. Clicking on any of the
links (opens new window) will provide more detailed information
about each fishing access site (FAS).
Previous Page : Fishing
the Clark Fork, Page 4
Big Sky Fishing.Com
Top of Page