Montana Fly Fishing
Floating the Boulder River

Boulder River

Floating the Boulder River

Boulder River above Natural Bridge
Photo Use Guidelines

The Boulder River provides two very different types of float - one for the whitewater enthusiast and the other for the float angler. The Boulder River can essentially be neatly divided into two halves by the Natural Bridge State Monument. The upper half of the Boulder River above the monument is generally narrow, has extensive rapids and is seldom floated. Below Natural Bridge, the river is bouncy but has no major rapids, allowing for excellent fly fishing.

Floating any portion of the Boulder River above Natural Bridge State Monument is difficult, and should only be attempted by someone who is experienced using a kayak or very small raft. Additionally, the Boulder River will not be able to be floated at all during late summer, as the river will just be too shallow in spots. As a result, the best time to float the upper section of the Boulder is in late-June and July, right after the high water begins to subside but well before the low water conditions of August set in. If you do plan on floating this section, you may as well leave the fishing pole home unless you plan on stopping on the river at various spots to fish. The current is just too fast and the river to narrow to effectively fly fish from a speeding boat.

During higher water, floating on the upper stretch for the whitewater enthusiast can begin at Hells Canyon Campground, which is about ten miles downstream from the Boulder Rivers origin, and will allow for a wild ride down to Falls Creek Campground. For all intensive purposes, the river between Hells Canyon Campground and Falls Creek Campground is whitewater, with slacker, slower water just filling in the gaps. A rafter or kayaker will encounter unending Class II rapids, miles of Class III, and in the upper stretches of this section, more than three miles of Class IV whitewater.

Natural Bridge on the Boulder River
Photo Use Guidelines

Other than the obvious danger posed by the whitewater, the other danger is inadvertently floating right by the takeout point. The Boulder River has a solid current past the Falls Creek Campground, and the campground is not easily noticed from the river in any event. As this is the last takeout before Natural Bridge State Monument (which does not have a takeout before the waterfall), it is quite important to get out here and not go by it. To avoid this, it is suggested that any floaters get out not at the campground, but at the easily located bridge that crosses the river about a quarter mile upstream from Falls Creek.

Remember, Natural Bridge does NOT have a take out point. The Boulder River is deep down in a gorge as it flows through the monument, so it is important to get out before reaching the gorge. And the gorge is not floatable. The waterfall and the disappearing act of the river into the rock see to that.

Below Natural Bridge, the Boulder River mellows out substantially, making for a nice float while fly fishing. Floating on this stretch can begin about ten miles downstream from the gorge, at a bridge that crosses the East Boulder River. Additionally, floaters can access the river three miles further downstream at a public access site along the Boulder River itself.

Regardless of where a floater puts in, the lower Boulder River provides a relatively easy float. No major rapids exist, although lots of riffles and smaller Class II rapids can be found. Watch out for irrigation lines and fences, though, as a couple of each can occasionally be found crossing the river in seemingly different places each year.

Next Page : Boulder River Photographs


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