Kayaking in Montana

Montana has some of the best rough mountain terrains in the United States, and surprisingly it is also the location of some amazing kayaking excursions. You can choose to go for observing wildlife as you paddle through the first “lazy river,” cross an alpine flatwater lake with crystal clear water or take a stab at whitewater rapids of Class 4, Montana has a little lot of everything.

Kayaking in Montana pin

From the Latin word for mountains comes the name Montana. Over 100 mountain ranges and subranges can be found in the Yukon Territory, and hundreds of creeks and rivers flow from their slopes. One of the best-known rivers is the Missouri, which begins in southeastern Montana, where the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson converge. Yellowstone, Flathead, Bitterroot, Marias, Kootenay, and Clark Fork are some of the other legendary rivers.

12 Best Location Kayaking in Montana

Fort Peck Lake

Fort Peck Lake

If you’re a skilled paddler who is looking to test your physical and mental endurance, Fort Peck Lake has it. Montana’s largest lake, which is located in the northeastern region of the country, is home to 16 kilometers of coastline. It is famous for its powerful winds and rough waves. You can expect to be on the beach indefinitely, and certainly not just hours when a storm is traversing through. Many kayakers and paddlers have taken on the challenge, enduring long journeys through multiple states. A lot of planning and preparation is essential to conquering this kind of lake since there aren’t any amenities on the way.

Glacier National Park Lakes

Glacier National Park Lakes

Glacier is among the US parks’ most beautiful spots. The alpine landscape, glacier-fed lakes, and streams create the most beautiful scenery you could ever imagine.

A number of Glacier’s most expansive lakes are easily accessible through the campgrounds of the park which are located near the lakes. You can bring your kayak of choice, or can hire one from an outfitter on-site. If you’re bringing your own kayak you’ll need to have it examined for aquatic species that are invasive by the Ranger Station.

The most sought-after lakes and ones that are easy to reach, are Two Medicine Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake, Saint Mary Lake along Lake McDonald. Each of them is big and, with the passing of time and the winds intensify you can anticipate quite an upswing. Get out early in the morning to enjoy the calmest water.

Rules for opening dates for the lakes differ each year. Therefore, make certain to check the site of the park for the most current information.

Missouri River

Missouri River

There are several places to launch. Upper Missouri River is a National Wild and Scenic River that flows from Fort Benton to the James Kipp Recreation Area in which there is an opportunity to take it out. There are a variety of spots to get on the river’s 149-mile stretch.

One of the launch spots is located in Coal Banks Landing, where there’s a visitor’s center and camping facilities. The launch site is an ideal spot to go for a three or two-day paddling trip through The White Cliffs.

There are plenty of places on the Missouri River to stop to rest and then camp for the night. You could even camp at the exact spots that Lewis and Clark camped during their exploration at the beginning of the 19th century.

Crystal Lake, Lewistown

Crystal Lake

In Montana’s central Big Snowy Mountains, you’ll be able to find Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake is managed by the US Forest Service operates a campsite here in which you’ll find the boat launch. Crystal Lake is 46 acres large and is located in a secluded area with biking and hiking trails.

At the elevation of 5,700ft. Crystal Lake sits under Mount Harlow in one of the most stunning locations Montana offers. The area is well-loved by horseback riders, birdwatchers as well as fishermen.

If you’re looking to get your legs moving after a paddle, make sure you take a look at the trail loop which circles the lake.

Bean Lake

Bean Lake

Bean Lake is a small lake that is located on the Rockies Front. It offers stunning perspectives of the southerly reaches of the Rocky Mountains, and it’s an easy-to-navigate location that’s perfect for those who are just starting out. With a pedal-powered boat, you can sail out as you explore the area trying to find the best spots for casting your lines. Bean Lake is populated by many kinds of fish such as bluegill, largemouth bass rock bass, blue catfish among others, and, therefore, you are able to catch some fish for dinner.

Bean Lake Bean Lake has a 14-day duration for campers and while you’re there you are able to use the toilets, camp trailers as well as a kayak/boat launching area. Bean Lake is one of the many camping and fishing locations in Montana that permit pets. This means that you don’t need to leave your dog behind. There are eight camping spots near the lake, where you can spend quality time with your kids and also teach them to kayak fish.

Mighty Mo

Mighty Mo

Mighty Mo is the name given to the length that runs along the Missouri River from the Holter Dam through the plains. Kayaks are able to cover the entire length, however, it’s quite long. It is a very popular day trip for kayakers in the region that begins in Craig and goes beneath the canyon wall, to Prewett Creek. The 15-mile journey isn’t the most enjoyable. There is, however, another, shorter and more obscure version that begins with the Holter dam and goes through the top fly fishing spots, and finishes at Craig. The shorter version is approximately 7 miles long and is perfect to fly fishermen.

Noxon Reservoir

Noxon Reservoir

If you’re in search of peace and quiet far from the hustle and bustle look no further than Noxon Reservoir at the town of Trout Creek. The view is stunning and it’s far enough from the main roads that few tourists visit here. Many call it the most well-kept hidden gem in Montana.

The lake has plenty of places to put in, so the paddlers out do not often meet. The water is clear enough that you could spot fish swimming in the water beneath the kayak. The area surrounding it offers excellent hunting and hiking opportunities and trout streams that feed the reservoir. Be sure to take the fishing rod! There are campgrounds too that include Marten Creek Campground which has boat ramps.

Flathead Lake and Wild Horse Island

Flathead Lake and Wild Horse Island

Just to the south from Glacier National Park on the Flathead River, Flathead Lake offers a variety of kayaking options. A lot of paddlers prefer to go across the lake into Wild Horse Island, where it is possible to take a two-and-a-half-hour hike. The most ideal place to go for a kayak trip to take in the views of Wild Horse Island is at Big Arm Bay, where you can kayak rentals.

Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake that is natural within the Western United States. The lake is 28 miles in length and fifteen miles wide. This is huge water. In Flathead Lake State Park, you’ll find plenty of wildlife and fishing, as well as camping, swimming, and picnicking options that will keep you busy for a long time.

Kootenai River

Kootenai River

The Kootenai starts in British Columbia. Under Libby Dam, it flows 50 miles through Montana before reaching its Idaho border. It is surrounded by rugged, mountains and thick forests.

The dam controls how the water flows however it fluctuates abruptly. Make sure you check the local conditions before making a decision to go. The initial 25 miles of the river beneath the dam will have an extremely swift flow, but there are no rapids. China Rapids is the first hurdle to a river float trip. A 30-foot waterfall is next to the gorge, which is then filled with a variety of whitewater alternatives. The gorge is comprised of at least three or four sections of Class 4 rapids, and two of the four Class 3 rapids.

After the final gorge, the Kootenai is a small riffle that leads to Idaho. The low elevation of the Kootenai means it is able to rapidly heat up during hot summer days, so be prepared to feel like you’re in Montana for a while!

Other than the section Class 3 China Rapids section and the gorge The Kootenai River is excellent for floating. Find the most enjoyable trips with flows ranging between 8,000 and 12,000 CFS. If you are able to portage over the gorge and falls it is suitable for anyone with a level of ability.

Smith River State Park

Smith River State Park

If you’re looking for something unique, consider applying for authorization to float on in the Smith River, which is a four-day, 59-mile journey located on the outskirts of Lewis and Clark National Forest. It is such a sought-after excursion that the park department must implement an application lottery to avoid congestion on the river’s narrow. There aren’t any facilities on the river, so you’ll need everything you need to bring including food, water, and other gear. The river is suitable for intermediate paddlers and above.

Paddling isn’t very technical or difficult, however, you’ll need to cover plenty of water every day. This isn’t all work but it is a lot of fun. There are numerous chances to play and relax. Swim in a splash hole, fish, or climb the walls of rocks that surround the river and watch out for the bears who are known to be frequenting the region. If you’re lucky enough to be the winner of this lottery, you’ll get an unforgettable kayaking experience that will last a lifetime and is almost nobody else has ever experienced.

Clearwater Canoe Trail and Seeley Lake

Clearwater Canoe Trail and Seeley Lake

If you’re in search of an unforgettable adventure that the entire family can do in the span of a single afternoon, you should check out the Clearwater Canoe Trail. It’s a relaxing paddle across Lolo National Forest.

The entry point is Seeley Lake, and if you decide to hike the hike, it will take just 3.5 miles. This makes it a great trip that will take a few hours. And it’s simple enough to return to your car that’s only 1.5 miles away by land.

Clark Fork River

Clark Fork River

Another relaxing option that’s enjoyable for everyone in the family includes The Clark Fork River. The mountain-rimmed river flows through the Anacona Pintler Mountains, where you’ll find large animals like the elk, moose, and deer.

Clarks Fork Clarks Fork starts near Missoula and joins the Bitterroot as well as the Blackfoot Rivers. It flows through the stunning Alberton Gorge.

Final Words

Montana is a stunning combination of alpine lakes as well as rivers with a variety of levels. The views and wildlife viewing possibilities are unbeatable. Don’t forget to take a paddle on one of the most remote and most stunning states of the country!

Be sure that you’ve got the right safety equipment and the necessary knowledge to go paddling. If you plan to kayak through those whitewater river systems of Tennessee it is advised that you are equipped with the proper expertise.

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