- Enjoy a scenic float trip down the Blackfoot River.
- Hire a guide and let them take care of all the float details.
- Float through the city of Missoula along the Clark Fork River.
- Keep your eyes open for elk, moose, deer, osprey and bald eagles.
Missoula Valley is surrounded by picturesque mountains and ponderosa pine forests. A scenic float trip is the perfect way to cut through this beautiful landscape while you quietly view the wildlife in its natural habitat. Pull over along the banks for a picnic or jump in the river for a refreshing swim.
The Clark Fork, Blackfoot, and Bitterroot Rivers all cross Missoula Valley offering you three different options for your scenic float trip. Hop on a raft and take in the sights, for an awesome day on the river.
Where to Go on a Scenic Float Trip
Clark Fork River
- Milltown Dam to Kelly Island: The Clark Fork River meanders its way directly through the town of Missoula and is a great option for scenic float trip. Put in below the old Milltown Dam and float your way through town. Keep your eyes open for bald eagles, osprey, and deer, that call this stretch of river home. If your hot, this is a great place for a quick dip. You will slowly float through Hellgate Canyon, the historic sight of Blackfoot Indian raids against other tribes. The University of Montana will start to come into view, followed by the city of Missoula. Hang a left at the fork and pull out among the cottonwood groves on Kelly Island. This leisurely float is perfect for the entire family.
- Tarkio Gorge: Just below the raging waters of the Alberton Gorge you will find the much calmer Tarkio Gorge. This stretch of river has great swimming holes and nice sandy beaches. Stop here for lunch or continue down this peaceful stretch of river. Along the way you may see some of the amazing wildlife, including elk, deer, moose, bald eagles, osprey, and, beavers. This scenic float trip is a great way to take in all the beautiful sights found in the Missoula Valley.
One of the favorite and most frequented rivers for local Missoulians, the Blackfoot River is popular for a reason. This glacial river with large boulders and coniferous shorelines offers something a little different in each stretch of river.
- Ninemile Prairie to Whitaker Bridge: This upper stretch of river offers secluded wilderness and great possibilities for wildlife viewing. The perfect, scenic float.
- Whitaker Bridge to Johnsrud Park: Beware, if you continue past Whitaker Bridge. Here, your scenic ride may get splashed if you float this section in early summer. The rapids of Thibodeau Falls taper off later in the summer when water flows are lower. Do not attempt this portion at any time without a guide.
- Johnsrud to Bonner: This generally congested part of the river has great accessibility and amazing views. But, if you are looking for a nice, tranquil, scenic float there may be too many people on this stretch of river for totally relaxation.
The Bitterroot River, best known for its outstanding fly fishing, also offers a tranquil place for a scenic float trip. Starting its flow near Conner, the river peacefully meanders north toward Missoula and the confluence with the Clark Fork River. Pick most any portion of this amazing river and enjoy a relaxing day as you take in the scenery.
Unfortunately, this river can be a bit tricky with a couple dams up near Hamilton and frequent log jams. River access signs are posted along Hwy 93 south. Be careful and make sure to pay attention.
Rentals & Guides
Assuming a big, huge, inflatable raft did not make the packing cut when you were packing for your trip to Missoula, don't fret. There are multiple outfitters who are happy to rent you any equipment you might need. They will set you up with a raft, paddles, floatation devices, and anything else you may want. There are a number of companies so shop around to ensure that you get the best deal with the best and safest equipment.
Or let a guide plan a scenic float trip for you, while you sit back and enjoy your vacation. They will provide all the gear and a shuttle to and from the put in/take out spots. Want to have a picnic lunch along the way? Just ask, they are happy to accommodate most requests.
Hiring a guide may also be a safer option. River conditions are always changing, sometimes creating obstacles in the river, you may not be prepared to handle. So let the guide maneuver you down the river while you take in the sights. As with rentals, there are plenty of guides looking for your business. Look at a couple to find one that suits your needs.