Kayaking in Montana

I must say, Montana boasts some of the most remarkable rough mountain terrains across the United States. But, here’s the surprise – it also serves as the perfect destination for amazing kayaking excursions. From observing wildlife while gently paddling through the first “lazy river” to conquering the challenging Class 4 whitewater rapids, Montana offers a diverse range of experiences for kayakers, making it a true gem for adventure enthusiasts.

in Montana

The name “Montana” has its roots in the Latin word for mountains, which perfectly encapsulates the state’s character. With over 100 mountain ranges and subranges in the Yukon Territory, the region is a haven for nature lovers. Numerous creeks and rivers gracefully flow from the slopes of these mountains, creating a picturesque landscape. Among these rivers, the renowned Missouri River originates in southeastern Montana, where the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson rivers converge. Additionally, the state is home to other legendary rivers such as Yellowstone, Flathead, Bitterroot, Marias, Kootenay, and Clark Fork.

Montana truly offers a little bit of everything, making it an ideal destination for both nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Whether you’re drawn to the rugged mountain landscapes or eager to explore the captivating rivers, this state promises unforgettable experiences that cater to a variety of interests.

12 Best Location Kayaking in Montana

Fort Peck Lake

As an experienced paddler seeking to push my physical and mental limits, I find Fort Peck Lake to be an ideal destination. Situated in the northeastern region of Montana, this vast lake offers a staggering 16 kilometers of picturesque coastline. Renowned for its powerful winds and rough waves, Fort Peck Lake provides a challenging and exhilarating experience for kayakers like me.

Fort Peck Lake

Venturing onto this lake means embracing the unpredictability of nature, as the winds and waves can be formidable even for hours after a storm has passed. Many skilled kayakers and paddlers have taken up the gauntlet, embarking on long and demanding journeys that span multiple states. However, conquering such a lake requires meticulous planning and thorough preparation, as there are no amenities or support along the way. Embracing this challenge is a testament to the passion and dedication of kayaking enthusiasts, and it undoubtedly promises an unforgettable adventure. I look forward to undertaking this journey and relishing the raw beauty and untamed nature of Fort Peck Lake. With the right preparations and determination, I am ready to embrace this extraordinary experience of a lifetime.

  • Location: Montana, Fort Peck Lake;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1
.

Glacier National Park Lakes

Glacier National Park holds a special place in my heart as one of the most stunning locations among the US parks. The alpine landscape, adorned with glacier-fed lakes and streams, offers a breathtaking scenery that surpasses any imagination.

Glacier National Park Lakes

The park’s campgrounds, conveniently situated near some of Glacier’s most expansive lakes, provide easy access to these natural wonders. For an unforgettable experience, I can bring my own kayak of choice or opt to rent one from the on-site outfitter. However, if I choose to bring my own kayak, it’s essential to have it inspected for invasive aquatic species by the Ranger Station to protect the delicate ecosystem.

Among the sought-after lakes that are easily reachable, I have my eye on Two Medicine Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake, Saint Mary Lake, and Lake McDonald. Each of these lakes is generously sized, and as time passes and winds pick up, I can anticipate thrilling paddling experiences. To make the most of tranquil waters, I’ll plan my excursions early in the morning.

One important aspect to note is that the opening dates for these lakes may vary each year. To stay up-to-date with the latest information, I’ll be sure to check the official website of the park for any updates and guidelines. Exploring the wonders of Glacier National Park by kayak promises to be an enchanting journey, surrounded by awe-inspiring beauty and immersed in the tranquility of nature. I can’t wait to embark on this adventure and witness the unparalleled allure of these glacier-fed lakes firsthand.

  • Location: Montana, Glacier National Park Lakes;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1
.

Missouri River

I’m thrilled to share that there are numerous fantastic launch points along the Upper Missouri River, which is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. This beautiful river stretches from Fort Benton to the James Kipp Recreation Area, offering a mesmerizing 149-mile journey for paddlers like me.

Missouri River

One of the launch spots that caught my attention is Coal Banks Landing, where I’ll find a convenient visitor’s center and camping facilities. It’s the perfect starting point for a delightful three or two-day paddling adventure through The White Cliffs. The stunning scenery along the way promises to be an unforgettable experience.

Read also:  How To Transport Two Kayaks in a Truck

Throughout the 149-mile stretch, I’ll discover plenty of places along the Missouri River to take a break, rest, and even camp overnight. What’s truly fascinating is that I could have the opportunity to camp at the very same spots where the legendary explorers Lewis and Clark once camped during their exploration in the early 19th century, adding a sense of historical significance to the journey. I can’t wait to immerse myself in the tranquil beauty of the Upper Missouri River, surrounded by the picturesque landscape and the echoes of the past. It’s a dream come true for any paddler, and I’m eager to embark on this incredible expedition.

  • Location: Montana, Missouri River;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1-3
.

Crystal Lake, Lewistown

I recently discovered a hidden gem in the central Big Snowy Mountains of Montana – Crystal Lake. Managed by the US Forest Service, this serene lake boasts a campsite with a convenient boat launch. Covering an impressive 46 acres, Crystal Lake is a secluded oasis surrounded by picturesque biking and hiking trails.

Crystal Lake Lewistown

Nestled at an elevation of 5,700 feet, Crystal Lake enjoys the breathtaking presence of Mount Harlow, making it one of the most stunning locations Montana has to offer. The area is beloved by horseback riders, birdwatchers, and fishing enthusiasts alike, each finding their own source of delight in this natural wonderland.

For those who crave some leg-stretching after a peaceful paddle on the lake, the trail loop encircling Crystal Lake is a must-see. This scenic loop promises to be an invigorating experience, allowing me to immerse myself in the captivating beauty of the surroundings. I’m already excited about the prospect of paddling on Crystal Lake and exploring its hidden trails, connecting with nature on a deeper level. Montana continues to surprise me with its breathtaking beauty, and Crystal Lake is undoubtedly a treasure waiting to be discovered.

  • Location: Montana, Missouri River;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1
.

Bean Lake

I recently came across a charming spot called Bean Lake, nestled on the Rockies Front. This small lake offers breathtaking views of the southern reaches of the Rocky Mountains and is an excellent choice for beginners like me who are just starting out on their paddling adventures. With a pedal-powered boat, I can leisurely explore the area, searching for the best spots to cast my fishing lines. The lake is teeming with various fish species, including bluegill, largemouth bass, rock bass, and blue catfish, providing a great opportunity to catch some fish for a delightful dinner.

Bean Lake

What makes Bean Lake even more appealing is its camper-friendly policies. With a 14-day duration for campers, there are facilities available, including toilets, camp trailers, and a designated kayak/boat launching area. The best part is that Bean Lake is one of the pet-friendly camping and fishing locations in Montana, meaning I can bring my beloved dog along on this memorable journey.

With eight cozy camping spots near the lake, I can look forward to spending quality time with my family, creating cherished memories and even teaching the kids the art of kayak fishing. Bean Lake is a true haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering a serene and enjoyable retreat that I can’t wait to experience firsthand.

  • Location: Montana, Bean Lake;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1
.

Mighty Mo

I recently came across an exciting kayaking route known as Mighty Mo, which stretches along the Missouri River from the Holter Dam through the plains. While it’s possible to cover the entire length, it’s quite a long journey. However, for kayakers in the region, the section from Craig to Prewett Creek, beneath the canyon wall, is a popular day trip, spanning about 15 miles. Although it might not be the most enjoyable trip, the experience is still rewarding.

Mighty Mo

On the other hand, I also found a shorter and lesser-known version of the Mighty Mo that begins at the Holter Dam and takes you through the top fly fishing spots before concluding at Craig. This 7-mile stretch is a perfect choice for fly fishermen seeking a thrilling adventure on the river.

Exploring the Mighty Mo offers a fantastic opportunity to connect with nature and savor the beauty of the Missouri River. Whether I choose the longer or shorter version, I’m excited to paddle through this iconic river and discover the hidden gems that await along the way. It’s a kayaker’s delight, and I’m eager to embrace this exciting adventure on the Mighty Mo.

  • Location: Montana, Mighty Mo;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1-3
.

Noxon Reservoir

I recently stumbled upon a true haven of tranquility, far from the hustle and bustle of city life – Noxon Reservoir, nestled near the charming town of Trout Creek. The stunning view and the peaceful atmosphere make it a perfect escape, as it is situated far enough from the main roads, attracting only a few tourists. Many consider it the most well-kept hidden gem in all of Montana, and I can’t wait to explore its wonders.

Read also:  Wilderness Systems Kayak Review
Noxon Reservoir

Noxon Reservoir offers plenty of put-in spots for paddlers like me, ensuring that we rarely cross paths with others while enjoying our serene paddling experience. The crystal-clear water allows for a mesmerizing sight of fish swimming beneath the kayak, adding to the allure of the adventure. Surrounding the reservoir, there are excellent opportunities for hunting and hiking, along with trout streams that feed into the water. I’ll definitely bring along my fishing rod to make the most of this incredible fishing paradise.

For those who wish to extend their stay, there are campgrounds available, including the Marten Creek Campground, which offers convenient boat ramps for easy access to the reservoir.

Noxon Reservoir truly promises an unforgettable retreat, where I can immerse myself in the beauty of nature, indulge in peaceful paddling sessions, and enjoy the abundance of recreational opportunities it has to offer. This hidden gem is a true sanctuary for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike, and I’m thrilled to make it a part of my journey through Montana.

  • Location: Montana, Noxon Reservoir;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1
.

Flathead Lake and Wild Horse Island

I recently discovered a fantastic kayaking destination just south of Glacier National Park – Flathead Lake. This beautiful lake, located on the Flathead River, offers a plethora of kayaking opportunities that are sure to captivate any paddler’s heart. Many enthusiasts, like me, prefer paddling across the lake to reach Wild Horse Island, where a delightful two-and-a-half-hour hike awaits, promising breathtaking views and memorable experiences.

Flathead Lake and Wild Horse Island

For the ultimate kayaking trip with stunning vistas of Wild Horse Island, I’ll head to Big Arm Bay, where kayak rentals are available. It’s the perfect starting point for an unforgettable adventure.

Flathead Lake holds the distinction of being the largest natural freshwater lake in the Western United States, spanning an impressive 28 miles in length and 15 miles in width. Paddling on this vast water body is a remarkable experience that I can’t wait to indulge in.

Within Flathead Lake State Park, there’s an abundance of wildlife and excellent fishing opportunities. Additionally, the park offers camping, swimming, and picnicking options, ensuring that I’ll have a fulfilling and exciting time that keeps me engaged throughout my visit. With its picturesque surroundings and endless recreational possibilities, Flathead Lake is undoubtedly a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. I’m eagerly looking forward to immersing myself in the tranquility of this stunning lake and creating unforgettable memories on its glistening waters.

  • Location: Montana, Flathead Lake and Wild Horse Island;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1
.

Kootenai River

I’ve come across an incredible river that offers a remarkable kayaking experience – the Kootenai River. Starting in British Columbia and flowing through 50 miles of rugged Montana landscapes before reaching Idaho, this river is surrounded by majestic mountains and dense forests, creating a truly picturesque setting.

Kootenai River

Before embarking on this adventure, it’s crucial to be aware that the flow of the Kootenai River is controlled by the Libby Dam, leading to abrupt fluctuations. To ensure a safe journey, I’ll always check the local conditions before deciding to go. The first 25 miles below the dam feature a swift flow, though without any rapids. However, China Rapids marks the beginning of a thrilling river float trip. After encountering a 30-foot waterfall, the gorge presents a variety of whitewater alternatives, with at least three or four Class 4 rapids and two Class 3 rapids.

Once past the final gorge, the Kootenai River mellows into a gentle riffle, leading me towards Idaho. Given its low elevation, the river can rapidly heat up on hot summer days, offering an immersive Montana experience.

Apart from the challenging Class 3 China Rapids section and the gorge, the Kootenai River is excellent for floating. For the most enjoyable trips, I’ll aim for flows ranging between 8,000 and 12,000 CFS. With the right preparation and skill level, this river is suitable for kayakers of various abilities, provided that I can navigate around the gorge and falls with careful portaging. The allure of the Kootenai River beckons, and I can’t wait to embrace the excitement of paddling through its breathtaking scenery and thrilling rapids. It’s an adventure of a lifetime that I’m eagerly looking forward to.

  • Location: Montana, Kootenai River;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1-3
.

Smith River State Park

If you’re in search of a truly unique and extraordinary adventure, I highly recommend considering the Smith River journey. This exceptional four-day, 59-mile excursion awaits you on the outskirts of Lewis and Clark National Forest, offering an unforgettable experience like no other. Such is the popularity of this sought-after trip that the park department implements an application lottery to ensure the river’s narrow passageways remain uncluttered.

Smith River State Park

As you embark on this remarkable journey, keep in mind that there are no facilities along the river, so it’s essential to be fully prepared. Packing all the necessary supplies, including food, water, and gear, is crucial to make the most of this incredible expedition. The Smith River is suitable for intermediate paddlers and above, offering a rewarding experience without overly technical or difficult challenges.

Read also:  Kayaking in Wisconsin

Throughout the journey, you’ll cover plenty of water each day, but don’t worry, it’s not all hard work; there’s plenty of fun to be had. The river provides numerous opportunities to relax and play, whether it’s swimming in a splash hole, fishing, or exploring the rocky walls that surround the water. Just be aware of the bears, as they are known to frequent the region. Winning the lottery for this kayaking adventure is a stroke of luck that leads to a lifetime of cherished memories. Few have experienced the magic of the Smith River journey, making it an even more extraordinary and exclusive opportunity. I’m excited to seize this chance to paddle through the breathtaking landscapes and create lasting moments that will forever remain etched in my heart.

  • Location: Montana, Smith River State Park;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1-3
.

Clearwater Canoe Trail and Seeley Lake

If you’re searching for an unforgettable family adventure that can be accomplished in just a single afternoon, I highly recommend exploring the Clearwater Canoe Trail. This delightful trail offers a relaxing paddle through the stunning Lolo National Forest, promising a memorable experience for all.

Clearwater Canoe Trail and Seeley Lake

To begin this exciting journey, you can access the trail from Seeley Lake, which serves as the entry point. For those who enjoy hiking, there’s an option to take a scenic 3.5-mile hike, making it an ideal trip lasting just a few hours. What’s even more convenient is that your starting point is close to your car, located just 1.5 miles away by land, ensuring a smooth return after your paddling excursion.

The Clearwater Canoe Trail offers the perfect combination of natural beauty and family-friendly accessibility, making it an excellent choice for a fun-filled afternoon adventure. I can’t wait to paddle through the serene waters of Lolo National Forest and create lasting memories with my loved ones.

  • Location: Montana, Clearwater Canoe Trail and Seeley Lake;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1-2
.

Clark Fork River

I’ve discovered another wonderful and relaxing option that is perfect for the whole family – The Clark Fork River. This beautiful river flows through the picturesque Anacona Pintler Mountains, offering a serene experience for everyone to enjoy. Along the riverbanks, one can often spot majestic creatures like elk, moose, and deer, adding to the charm of the journey.

Clark Fork River 1

The Clark Fork River originates near Missoula and gracefully merges with both the Bitterroot and Blackfoot Rivers. As it meanders through the stunning Alberton Gorge, the river treats paddlers to breathtaking views and a sense of tranquility that is truly captivating.

With such a delightful combination of scenic beauty and abundant wildlife, The Clark Fork River promises an unforgettable paddling experience. Whether it’s a peaceful family outing or a serene solo adventure, I can’t wait to immerse myself in the serenity of this remarkable river and its surroundings.

  • Location: Montana, Clark Fork River;
  • Permit required: None;
  • Camping is available: Yes;
  • Kayak and canoe rentals: Yes;
  • Whitewater Quick Classification System: Class 1-4
.

Final Words

I must say, Montana is an absolute marvel, showcasing a mesmerizing blend of alpine lakes and rivers with varying levels of difficulty. The breathtaking views and abundant wildlife sightings make it an unbeatable destination for any nature enthusiast. I can’t wait to explore one of the most remote and stunning states in the country on a memorable paddling adventure!

Before setting out on my journey, I’ll make sure to prioritize safety above all else. Having the right safety equipment and essential paddling knowledge is crucial to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. For those planning to tackle the thrilling whitewater river systems of Tennessee, it’s even more important to equip ourselves with the necessary expertise to navigate these challenging waters successfully.

With careful preparation and a sense of adventure, I’m eager to embark on this paddling escapade in Montana. The unrivaled beauty of the alpine lakes and the excitement of navigating the rivers await, promising an unforgettable experience in this breathtaking state.

Is kayaking suitable for beginners in Montana?

Absolutely! Montana offers various kayaking spots suitable for beginners, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience.

What’s the best time to go kayaking in Montana?

The summer months, from June to August, are ideal for kayaking in Montana when the weather is pleasant and the waters are calm.

Can I rent kayaking equipment in Montana?

Yes, many rental shops and outdoor adventure companies offer kayaking equipment for rent.

Are there any age restrictions for kayaking in Montana?

Age restrictions may vary depending on the location and the rental company’s policies. However, kayaking is generally suitable for people of all ages.

Do I need prior kayaking experience to paddle in Glacier National Park?

While prior kayaking experience is beneficial, some guided tours in Glacier National Park cater to beginners and provide basic instruction.

Our best posts:

Leave a Comment