- Yellowstone River
The mighty Yellowstone River originates high in the mountains of Wyoming and quickly gains momentum as it flows through the heart of Yellowstone National Park and into Montana. The longest undammed flowing river in the lower 48, the Yellowstone River travels for almost 700 miles before meeting up with the Missouri River. The section of the Yellowstone closest to Mammoth Hot springs offers a welcome reprieve from hours of hiking and auto touring through the area.
Whilst in Yellowstone National Park, visitors to the park can view the Yellowstone River as charges through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a spectacle of waterfalls and churning rapids that is permanently closed by the park service to boating. All trips upon the Yellowstone River begin outside park boundaries, with three commercially run stretches within minutes of Gardiner, the town at the Mammoth Springs park entrance, with rapids ranging from beginner to intermediate in difficulty.
Fed by a combination of snowmelt and geothermal springs, the Yellowstone River does not freeze in the winter months, an anomaly in the northerly latitude at which Montana sits. As a result, the boating season starts on the Yellowstone far before most other rivers in the area and the waters remain at boatable flows throughout the summer months.
Elk, black bear, deer and a variety of raptors are often sighted along the river banks. Fly-fishermen and women are commonly seen along the Yellowstone’s banks, the river waters supporting a world-class blue-ribbon trout fishery. Commercial trips on the Yellowstone range from half day to full day in length all spring, summer and fall long.
Flowing past the small hamlet of Gardiner, the Yellowstone picks up speed. Flowing past the sweeping meadows and majestic peaks of Paradise Valley, the Yellowstone winds through what locals refer to as ‘the Gardiner Run’, a short but exciting section of river, offering beginner and intermediate level rapids.
Several rapids have large waves and there are plenty of rocks to navigate around. Trips on the Gardiner stretch last ½ a day and can be combined with the Yankee Jim for a full day adventure.
Yankee Jim Canyon
Named for an early settler of the area, Yankee Jim Canyon of the Yellowstone River is perhaps the most popular and is definitely the most difficult commercially run section of the bunch.
Big waves and large holes predominate the rapids through this half day stretch, with non-stop intermediate level whitewater action through several rapid stretches. Difficulty is amplified on the Yankee Jim section as water flow increases. Trips on Yankee Jim can be combined with the Gardiner Stretch for a full day adventure.
As the Yellowstone River exits Yankee Jim Canyon it quickly becomes a peaceful giant, perfect for visitors looking to simply enjoy the scenery without chaotic whitewater fun. Wildlife sightings are frequent along this stretch and the mountain views are fantastic, with the Beartooth-Absaroka mountains to the east and the Gallatin Range to the west.
Commercially run half day trips on the Paradise Run leave several times a day and can easily be complimented with a trip to the hot springs located nearby either before or after the float.