River : Floating & Rafting
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 Madison River in Montana provides an exceptionally scenic float,
by any standard. The wide open Madison Valley, combined with snow-capped
peaks lining the sky line, make any day spent on the Madison River, whether
it be fishing or just floating, worthwhile and thoroughly memorable.
Floating can begin just outside West
Yellowstone. However, due to Hebgen
Dam, which requires a long paddle across, floating generally begins further
downstream. Floaters can also put in directly beneath Hebgen Dam, allowing
for a short float down to Quake Lake that also requires a short paddle.
Directly below Quake Lake outlet exists a wild, whitewater ride lasting
for 3.5 miles for those willing to try it. Constant whitewater of Class
III and Class IV rapids along with many drops exist, challenging even
the most skilled whitewater enthusiasts. Only experienced paddlers in
high quality kayaks, rafts or whitewater canoes should attempt to float
this stretch. Additionally, due to the rivers narrow width and extremely
fast flows, fishing from a speeding boat is exceptionally difficult.
The wild ride on the Madison ends just above the Highway 87 Bridge.
Below the bridge, and for the next eight miles up to Lyons Bridge, the
Madison River has an extremely fast flow with quite a few pockets of
Class II whitewater, along with some large waves. While this section
is not immensely challenging for floating, it can make for a bumpy ride.
Below Lyons Bridge up to Varney Bridge, the Madison River turns into
a swift flowing river with seemingly endless riffles. No section on this
river should pose any problem to floating. Other than the fast current
and lots of riffles, no rapids exist other than some small waves that
are scattered about.
Below Varney Bridge, the river still runs quickly up until Ennis, where
it begins to slow substantially up until Ennis
Lake. The Madison River
also has a number of channels in this stretch. Above the town of Ennis,
a channel braids off to the left, which should be avoided as there is
a diversion dam on that channel that must be portaged. Below Ennis, three
channels exist for its run into Ennis Lake. The Madison runs right past
the town of Ennis, making for a convenient take out point before Ennis
Lake and the slow water downstream to the lake.
As the river flows through the Madison Dam, it enters Bear Trap Canyon,
which has extensive whitewater sections. Several Class IV rapids and
numerous Class II and III rapids exist, requiring a high quality raft
with an experienced paddler. Due to the very fast flows, fishing is very
difficult on this section from a boat. The rivers trip through the canyon
lasts for nine miles.
Once the Madison River emerges from Beartrap Canyon, the flows slow
down and the pressure on the river lessens considerably. The lower portion
of the river runs through an open and relatively arid valley, with no
obstacles in the river other than an occasional wave or rock.
The Madison River ends where the Missouri
River begins, near the town
of Three Forks and the Missouri River Headwaters State Park.
: River Miles
Listed below are river miles between selected access points to the Madison
River. Click on any of the links to obtain more information about a selected
River Origin in Wyoming: 149
Yellowstone National Park Boundary: 126
Hebgen Lake Inlet: 124
Hebgen Dam: 109
Quake Lake Inlet: 105
Quake Lake Slide Dam: 101.5
Pass Fishing Access Site (FAS): 97.7
West Fork Bridge Access Site: 90
Bridge FAS: 87.9
South Madison Access Site: 79
West Madison Access Site: 75
Bridge FAS: 71.4
Mile Ford FAS: 54.6
Tree Hole FAS: 53.5
Garden FAS: 48.5
Ennis Reservoir Inlet: 45
Madison dam: 40.3
Highway 84 Bridge (end Beartrap Canyon): 31
Beartrap Access Site: 29.4
Ford FAS: 23.8
Cliff FAS: 19.6
Headwaters State Park: 0.4
End of River at
Beginning of Missouri
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