The Lower Missouri River, which is loosely defined as downstream from Fort Benton to the North Dakota border, is a beautiful and secluded river. Rich in history, the Missouri River flows through the Missouri Breaks and is classified as a Wild or Scenic River for more than 150 miles downstream from Fort Benton. The countryside the river flows through is quite unique, with tall canyons, large arid buttes and awesome rock formations lining the river.
The Missouri River then empties into Fort Peck Lake, a massive lake stretching across a sizable chunk of eastern Montana. Below Fort Peck Lake, the Missouri River continues on towards the North Dakota border, meandering through the rolling prairie of eastern Montana.
|Lower Missouri River|
For its entire length, the Missouri River offers floaters true solitude. The river is rarely used for float fishing and its classification as a Wild or Scenic River limits the use of motorboats. Additionally, its remote setting combined with far flung access points make day use difficult. Thus, the Missouri River, particularly between Fort Benton and Fort Peck Lake (where the river flows through no towns and has no bridge crossings on this section) is an awesome place for long float trips.
Solitude can also be found below Fort Peck Lake, although access points are somewhat more frequent and the river skirts a few small towns. The countryside is also different, with the buttes and cliffs giving way to more or a rolling prairie with cottonwood trees along the rivers banks.
The only trout fishing to be found on the Lower Missouri River is located in a short couple mile stretch just below Fort Peck Dam. The cool, controlled waters of the dam create a fertile breeding ground for large rainbow trout. Oddly, these rainbows are not maintained by the state of Montana. While fishing pressure is far from heavy, lots of local anglers make the trip here (it's the best place to catch large trout in the eastern half of the state), so this stretch of the Missouri River receives a surprising amount of use. It’s also known for producing huge northern pike and walleye, which draws many spin anglers in search of a trophy. Streamers are an excellent fly to use for the rainbows in this section, especially on a sinking or sink tip line. Spin fisherman also have success with various large spoons, spinners as well as live bait.
|Gentle Bend of the River|
Other than this short stretch, the Missouri River is a warm water fishery downstream from Fort Benton. Large northern pike, walleye, catfish and smallmouth bass make up the bulk of the fish in the Lower Missouri River. And fed by the high nutrient water of the Missouri River, these fish can get really big, making for interesting fishing stories.
It should be noted that between Fort Benton and Fort Peck Lake, the Missouri River generally runs turbid all year, severely limiting any fly rod action. Below Fort Peck Lake, the river generally runs clear enough to allow productive fly fishing action for the warm water fish found there.
Overall, the Lower Missouri River is not a place to visit for trout fishing. However, the Lower Missouri River offers floating and rafting trips like no other place in Montana, and throws in the additional benefits of plenty of solitude in a very unique and historic setting.
Listed below are selected river miles on the Missouri River, from Great Falls downstream to the North Dakota Border.
- Giant Springs State Park in Great Falls : 522
- Widow Coulee FAS : 500
- Carter Ferry FAS : 488
- Loma Access Site : 448
- Coral Banks Access & Boat Ramp : 428
- LaBarge Rock Access : 415
- Judith Landing Access & Boat Ramp : 381
- McClelland Ferry : 367
- Cow Creek Access : 341
- West Boundary Charles Russell Wildlife Refuge : 330
- James Kipp Access : 250
- Siparyann Access : 232
- Rock Creek Access & Boat Ramp : 325
- Fort Peck Dam : 185
- School Trust FAS : 174
- Lewis & Clark FAS : 114
- Brockton Access : 65
- Culbertson Bridge FAS : 36
- North Dakota Border : 0