Montana Fly Fishing
Floating the Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River

Floating the Yellowstone River

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Yellowstone River at Mallards Landing
Photo Use Guidelines

The Yellowstone River begins in the Absaroka Mountains of Yellowstone National Park, where it soon flows into the massive and beautiful Yellowstone Lake. Beneath Yellowstone Lake, the river continues to flow through Yellowstone Park, flowing over the huge Yellowstone Falls. Beneath the falls, the river enters steep canyons and flows wildly, before entering Montana in the town of Gardiner, MT.

Floating is not allowed in Yellowstone Park, so floating can begin at the town of Gardiner. For most of its length, the Yellowstone River has few rapids. The exception occurs in the upper section soon after the river leaves the park. Several Class II rapids are found downstream from Gardiner. And beginning thirteen-miles downstream from Gardiner, just below the Joe Brown Fishing Access Site and lasting to the Carbella Access Site five miles downstream, the Yellowstone River flows through Yankee Jim Canyon. Several Class II-III rapids are found in this section, requiring experienced floaters in rafts or drift boats or whitewater canoes. The severity of the rapids encountered in Yankee Jim Canyon depends on river levels - during high flows, the rapids will be more severe. Usually by August river levels have fallen to a level that most of the rapids become a series of short Class II rapids with large waves.

Below the Carbella Access Site, the Yellowstone River flows through the very scenic Paradise Valley. Floating pressure is heavy between Carbella and Livingston as this stretch of river is heavily fished.

Yellowstone River at Mallards Landing
Photo Use Guidelines

Access to the Yellowstone River is excellent between Gardiner and Livingston. Public lands are found along many stretches of the river. Additionally, there are numerous designated fishing access sites that allow for easy access.

Below Livingston, floating and fishing pressure both fall. Except during the highest of flows, this section of river is easily floated by anyone. Access to the Yellowstone River becomes more difficult, as the river flows primarily through private lands and access sites are more widely spaced. No major obstruction or rapids will be encountered between Livingston and Billings. Although the river flows through the prairie, the float is still quite scenic, as the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains loom to the south and the Crazy Mountains are found to the north.

Downstream from Billings to the rivers confluence with the Missouri River in North Dakota, floaters will encounter several diversion dams that need to be portaged. These dams are widely spaced apart for the rest of the Yellowstone Rivers length in Montana.


Selected Yellowstone River Miles

Listed below are selected river miles for the Yellowstone River in Montana. You can get more detailed information about most of these access sites at the Montana FWP site.

Gardiner (Queen of Waters Fishing Access Site): 556.9
Corwin Springs FAS: 551.4
Tom Miner Bridge (end of Yankee Jim Canyon): 549.7
Slip & Slide FAS: 545.7
Point of Rocks FAS: 536.2
Emigrant FAS: 525
Grey Owl FAS: 522.2
Paradise FAS: 518.3
Mallards Rest FAS: 511.3
Free River FAS: 500
Mayors Landing FAS: 494.7
Highway 89 Bridge FAS (Livingston): 488.8
Springdale Bride FAS: 473.5
Otter Creek FAS (Big Timber): 454
Bratten FAS: 434.2
Homestead Isle FAS: 388.9
Captain Clark FAS: 310.6
Amelia Island FAS: 272.5
Pirogue Island State Park: 179.9
Elk Island FAS: 51.7
Seven Sisters FAS: 39.5
North Dakota Border: 0

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