Montana Fly Fishing
Floating the Red Rock River

Red Rock River

Floating the Red Rock River

Upper Red Rock River near Red Rock Lakes National Refuge
Photo Use Guidelines

The Red Rock River is not a prime river for floating or rafting, especially the section of river above Lima Reservoir. The river is very narrow, frequently slow, and windy conditions are common down in the open and arid Centennial Valley.

However, for those willing to deal with the slower currents and difficult access, the Red Rock River can provide a very scenic float, free of virtually any crowds above Lima Reservoir and with only occasional floating parties below it.

Floating the Red Rock River can begin where the Red Rock River empties into Upper Red Rock Lake. The river is to narrow, shallow and irregular to provide for consistent floating above this section (the Red Rock is more of a stream than a river upstream from the wildlife refuge).

A canoe is without question the best boat to use when floating through Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The river is very slow between the lakes, and the lakes themselves need to be paddled across. The lakes are also quite large, especially when taken into consideration that they are located in an otherwise arid valley.

The river flows through the refuge for twelve miles before it runs into a small dam that forms Lower Red Rock Lake.

Below the dam, the river meanders very slowly through private property. Brundage Road crosses the river eight miles downstream from the dam. The next road crossing is Lyons Road, which crosses the river just upstream from Lima Reservoir, more than twenty-two miles away. Due to the high winds, twisting nature and its narrowness, a canoe or inflatable kayak is the best boat to use on this stretch. A small raft might work tolerably well if you don't mind some rowing and if wind conditions are favorable.

After passing through Lima Reservoir, floating conditions become quite a bit better as the Red Rock River makes its way towards Clark Canyon Reservoir. The current is faster, and the river is somewhat wider, allowing rafts to better float the river. A couple of fences cross the river, so any floater will need to be alert to avoid running into them. Before floating this section, check current river flows, as during late summer the river level can become quite low.

River Miles

Origin at Lillian Lake: 131
Upper Red Rock Lake Inlet: 113
Upper Red Rock Lake Outlet: 110.5
Lower Red Rock Lake Inlet: 104
Lower Red Rock Lake Outlet: 102
Brundage Road Bridge: 94
Lyons Road Bridge: 73
Lima Reservoir Inlet: 71
Lima Dam: 58
Country Bridge: 47
Lima town bridge Access: 40
Red Butte Bridge: 28
Briggs Ranch Road Bridge: 21
Interstate 15 bridge over river: 8
Clark Canyon Reservoir Inlet (end of river): 4
Clark Canyon Dam: 0

Next Page : Red Rock River Photographs

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