blackfoot river montana

Blackfoot River Montana: Flows, Shuttles and Floats

The Blackfoot River Montana is nothing short of famous. The freestone river has a great combination of scenery, whitewater and fishing for brown, rainbow and native westlope cutthroat trout. It also has plenty of whitefish and a population of bull trout (can’t target the bull trout here). The valley has incredible scenery and is a bucket list place to float and fish in Montana.

Flows And Weather

Blackfoot R ab Nevada Cr nr Helmville MT

  • Flow: 172 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 3.80 ft

NF Blackfoot R ab Dry Gulch nr Ovando MT

  • Flow: 93.7 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 2.46 ft

Blackfoot River near Bonner MT

  • Water Temp: 32.54 ° F
  • Flow: 621 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 2.20 ft
Chance of Snow
Chance of Snow
Mostly Cloudy
Mostly Cloudy

Rapids and Float Notes

blackfoot river montanaThe river has plenty of wave trains, boulder fields and opportunities for technical rowing but it doesn’t actually have any major rapids.

Most everything is class III with one possible class IV based on the technical aspect. Thibodeau rapids is the biggest concern on the river and it’s a technical row around a series of large boulders.

High water can be dangerous, especially around peak runoff. As the river drops and clears, it becomes floatable and fishable in most areas. In a normal year, floating begins by June for the summer and pre-runoff fishing is possible as well. The valley is very cold and winter fishing is very limited here.

Boat Ramps and Access

Harry Morgan – Take the turn for Ovando and follow the signs. This actually puts you in on the North Fork of the Blackfoot. A mile or so downriver and you will enter the main river. Beware, there are some log hazards just below the launch that are dangerous depending on the year and flow. If you are unsure, put in at river junction.

River Junction – There’s a sign off the highway before Ovando if you’re driving east from Missoula on highway 200. It’s a bumpy dirt road that takes you about 9-10 miles to the confluence with the main-stem and North Fork of the Blackfoot. Harry Morgan has become popular because you can skip the dirt road. River Junction does have a very nice little campground however.

Scotty Brown Bridge – Not marked on the highway and the bridge is really a hand launch with a grassy bank. Not a bad place to drop a boat in but a pain to pull out without a strap to drag it up. Especially in low water.

Russell Gates – Nice campground and takeout. It has a big gravel bar where multiple rigs can get launched or loaded. Popular takeout point from salmonflies through the summer.

Sunset Hill – It’s a steep slide covered in paint and gel coating from drift boats. Carry and extra strap to lower or pull up your boat. It’s not pretty but is a very good spot to takeout if you launched at Russell Gates. Also a good place to start your day. A few wave trains and technical rowing for drift boats.

Roundup – Better as a launch than a takeout. Steep bank with a timber slide to get in the water. The rapids are mellow but boulder dodging requires attention on the sticks. Tons of great pockets in the heavy water however.

River Bend – Nice launch site with a campground. Plenty of room to pull out a raft or hardboat.

Whittaker Bridge – Nice developed ramp just downstream from the bridge on river right.

Johnsrud – Popular launch spot with plenty of parking and two ramp sites. One is a dirt area and the other is a concrete ramps just downstream.

Wisherd Bridge – Semi-formal bridge launch between Johnsrud and Weigh Station. In low water you can drive down and turn a vehicle around on a gravel bar. In high water you might need to back down the long alley to the water.

Weigh Station – Just out of Milltown is the weight station launch. Developed concrete ramp and outhouse. You can takeout here or launch and float into the Clark Fork river confluence.

Shuttle Services

Four Rivers Shuttles – Entire river. 406-370-5845

Blackfoot Shuttles – Based in Ovando, run most of the river. Convenient for the upper river. 406-793-2568, 406-210-2795

Blackfoot River Rentals – 406-244-0404, 406-244-5593

Blackfoot River Lodging and Good Eats

Too many high end places to stay on the river. Avoid Paws Up like the plague unless you need a butler to go camping. Stop in Ovando and grab a burger and beer at Trixi’s Saloon after a long day on the river. VRBO’s are available or you can do some good old fashioned camping. Several boat and fishing access sites offer great camping right on the river.


blackfoot river runoff

whitaker bridge, blackfoot river

River Specific Fishing Regulations

Exceptions to Standard Regulations: Blackfoot River

Mainstem and all tributaries except the Clearwater River

  • Catch-and-release for cutthroat trout
  • Combined Trout: 3 daily and in possession, no rainbow trout over 12 inches, any size brown trout.
  • Artificial lures only wihtin 100-yard radius of the mouths of Belmont Creek, Copper Creek, Gold Creek, Monture Creek, and North Fork Blackfoot River.

Mainstem only

  • Extended season for northern pike and whitefish and catch-and-release for trout open December 1 to third Saturday in May with artificial lures and/or maggots only. Tributaries are closed to fishing.

Mainstem from Landers Fork mouth downstream to the confluence with the Clark Fork River

  • Catch-and-release for brook trout. (This regulation is a result of bull trout being misidentified and harvested as brook trout. Brook trout are very rare in this section of river whereas bull trout are common.)

North Fork Blackfoot River

(tributary to Blackfoot River)

Entire River

  • Catch-and-release for cutthroat trout.
  • Combined Trout: 3 daily and in possession, no rainbow trout over 12 inches, any size brown trout.

Downstream from the North Fork Falls

  • Artificial lures only, including within a 100-yard radius of the mouth.
whitaker bridge boat ramp, blackfoot river
The boat ramp in high water at Whitaker Bridge

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