Blackfoot River

Activity Details

From Missoula: 18.9 miles

Activity Type(s): Day Floats, Overnight/Multiday Floats, Whitewater

Length (1-way): 132 miles

Difficulty: Medium


The Blackfoot River is one of the best floats in Montana. Combining excellent and diverse scenery with a wide variety of river conditions, any float on the Blackfoot River will lead to a memorable experience. The Blackfoot flows from Anaconda Creek near Rogers Pass 132 miles to the confluence with the Clark Fork River.

Access along the river is excellent. The upper portion of the river frequently flows through private lands with minimal public land adjacent to the river. The lower portion of the river flows through the Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor the corridor is a mix of USFS, BLM, FWP, Private timber lands, and a mix of private lands. This corridor provides numerous official access sites. Additionally, countless unofficial access sites are available off of Montana Highway 200 and several back roads that parallel the river on the other north side.

Floating and rafting can begin on the Blackfoot River near the town of Lincoln, more than 110 miles upstream from its confluence with the Clark Fork, although it is rarely used for floating as it meanders slowly and has lots of wood chocking the channel.

The upper portion of the Blackfoot River has primarily slow water. The river is narrow and flows through dense forests and some open ag land. Many logjams can also be found along the river, especially in the vicinity of Nevada Bridge, about 18 miles downstream from Lincoln. Wildlife is abundant along this stretch of the Blackfoot River.

The Blackfoot River then flows into a big, broad plain. there are a few access points along this stretch but it is only lightly used.  The most popular fishing float on the Blackfoot is whats called the Box canyon stretch, starting either on the North fork at Harry Morgan access and doing a 2 mile stretch of the North Fork to the confluence called River Junction.  At lower flows you can drive the bumpy road from Scotty Brown Bridge to River Junction and start there.  The normal take out is Russel gates,  There is one small rapid after you leave the canyon above Scotty Brown Bridge which has a limited parking area that accommodates only 4 rigs.

Beginning at Scotty Brown Bridge, the river enters the Blackfoot River Recreation Corridor. For the first five miles, the river is marked by a quick flow, twisty turns, but no whitewater.  The Russel Gates access point is a well developed site with camping and a decent river access ramp.

At Russell Gates the whitewater section of the Blackfoot River begins. For the next 10 miles, the Blackfoot River has numerous rapids, several of which are Class III at higher flows. Due to large waves and several small drops, this section of river should not be run in a canoe unless you have whitewater canoe experience. Beginners in rafts should also be wary of running this stretch of the Blackfoot River as well.

The Classic stretch of the river that is run in the spring time is from Roundup access to Johnsrud access.  This section has most of the rapids except for a couple at and above the Bridge Just upstream of the Roundup access.

Below this whitewater section, occasional Class II- II+ rapids can be found intermittently down the remainder of the Blackfoot River, but should pose no problems to alert floaters. For those traveling by canoe, it is advisable to scout these rapids before running them, as the severity of the rapids changes greatly with fluctuating water levels. There is a great surf spot popular with Whitewater Canoeists and Kayakers called the Ledge at river mile 70.3 parking is at Darrell Sall’s memorial .

Johnsrud is the largest site on the river and on may hot summer days looks more like the beach in LA than a river access. Taking out here on a busy day might mean getting folks sunning on the ramp to move so you can load a boat.

The Blackfoot River finally slows down a few miles above Bonner Dam. Currently Weigh Station is the last place you can take-out. The river from Weigh Station to the confluence with the Clark Fork is closed for river restoration.


Highway 200 follows the Blackfoot for most of the river.