The Madison River originates at the confluence of the Gibbon and the Firehole Rivers in Yellowstone National Park about 15 miles east of the Gallatin Forest Boundary. Within the Gallatin, several short sections of the upper Madison River are located above and below Hebgen Lake, and also downstream of Earthquake Lake. Each of these stretches of river can provide a unique angling opportunity. The South Fork of the Madison River is also a major tributary lying entirely within National Forest Systems lands.
Madison River from Yellowstone National Park to Hebgen Reservoir is open from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend through November 30. Hebgen Dam to Quake Lake is open the entire year. Quake Lake outlet to McAtee Bridge is open the third Saturday in May through the end of February. The South Fork of the Madison is open June 15 through November 30.
Only a small portion of the upper Madison River is located on National Forest systems lands. Land ownership along the rest of the river includes Yellowstone National Park and private lands. To fish inside Yellowstone Park, a separate National Park fishing license is required and can be obtained from the Park Service or local vendors in West Yellowstone or Gardiner. Yellowstone National Park fishing regulations can be viewed at www.nps.gov
A unique fishing opportunity exists in the short section of the Madison River upstream of Hebgen Lake during the fall, when brown trout migrate upstream to spawn. The stretch of the Madison River between Hebgen Lake and Earthquake Lake has good access along Highway 287 and offers fishable water when other streams and rivers are high and turbid. The short reach of the Madison River below Earthquake Lake is dominated by a very high gradient section created by the 1959 Madison Slide, which limits fishing. Gradient is less steep near Forest Boundary. The famous salmon fly hatch usually occurs in this section of the Madison River between Ennis and Earthquake Lake during the month of July.
The South Fork of the Madison River can be characterized as a classic, low gradient, pool/riffle meandering stream. The South Fork also supports a large brown trout spawning run during the fall and is a primary source for brown trout recruitment to Hebgen Lake.
Map + Directions
The portion of river below Hebgen Lake can be accessed via Highway 287. The South Fork Madison is accessible from Forest Road 291 and 478 via Highway 20 and the main stem Madison is readily accessible off Highways 191 and 287.