River : Overview
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The Madison River, perhaps the most famous of all the rivers in Montana,
begins in Yellowstone
National Park at the confluence of the Firehole
River and Gibbon
River. From its origin, it flows for more than 140 miles
through exceptionally beautiful scenery before it reaches the Missouri
River near the town of Three Forks, Montana. With its beautiful scenery
and excellent fishing, a visit to the Madison River is a top priority
for many anglers on a Montana fly fishing trip.
The Madison River offers exceptional fishing in a beautiful setting.
All fishermen can enjoy the river, as the dry fly fisherman, the nymph
fisherman and the streamer fisherman all enjoy success on the river.
Despite the Madison's run-in with whirling disease, discussed later,
the Madison River still provides some of the finest fishing in the state
for wild rainbow trout and large brown trout.
Madison River Characteristics
The Madison River runs for twenty-three miles in Yellowstone
National Park before leaving the park near West
Yellowstone, MT. Just below West
Yellowstone, the river runs into Hebgen
Lake, a fourteen-mile lake created
by the Hebgen Dam.
Less than three miles below Hebgen Dam, the river runs into another
dam, this time naturally made, at Quake
Lake. Quake Lake was created
in August of1959 when a 7.1 earthquake caused a massive rock slide that
completely blocked the Madison River at the west end of Madison Canyon,
creating a lake behind the slide. The channel of the river was also altered
by the slide as the Army Corps of Engineers scrambled to build a channel
for the river before a catastrophic flood would have occurred. The area
around this rockslide has been set aside as the 38,000 acre Madison River
Canyon Earthquake Area.
Directly beneath Quake Lake, the Madison River turns into a wild, rampaging
river for three miles. The whitewater on this section of river was caused
by earthquake. The gradient of river is very steep, with large boulders
and drops scattered all along this stretch. Numerous Class III and Class
IV rapids exist.
Beneath this whitewater section, which ends above the Highway 87 Bridge,
the Madison River turns into a swift flowing but gentle river for the
next fifty-three miles as it makes its way down the middle of the gorgeous
Madison Valley and the town of Ennis. The float in this section is absolutely
beautiful. Snow-capped mountains line the western and eastern skyline,
and the open nature of the rivers banks allows almost non-stop views.
Throughout this entire section of river, the Madison has countless riffles,
runs and pools, and provides the best fly fishing on the river.
Soon after flowing through Ennis, the Madison River flows into Ennis
Lake, a small five mile long lake created by the Madison Dam. Once the
river passes through the dam, the Madison passes through Bear Trap Canyon.
Through the canyon stretch, the Madison River is hemmed in by towering
canyon walls and has almost constant whitewater. This section of the
river is more heavily floated by whitewater enthusiasts than fisherman,
as the river flows and whitewater hamper fishing from a boat.
The Madison River emerges from Bear Trap Canyon seven miles later, still
thirty-one miles above the confluence with the Missouri River. For the
rest of its length, the river flows fairly steadily at first and then
more slowly through open, somewhat arid countryside, with no further
rapids or obstructions. Brown trout are the main trout species in the
Madison River below the Madison Dam.
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