Madison River Montana: Flows, Shuttles, Floating and Fishing

Madison River Montana – The outstanding fishing on this river is no secret. In fact, the crowds are so intense during the salmonfly hatch, I advise going somewhere else. Otherwise, the giant riffle is an amazing river that flows through one of the most spectacular valleys you will ever encounter. Access is great, it starts in Yellowstone National Park and provides some serious opportunity to recreate on the water.

Flows And Weather

Madison River near West Yellowstone, MT

  • Water Temp: 42.98 ° F
  • Flow: 470 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 1.87 ft
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USGS

Madison River bl Hebgen Lake nr Grayling MT

  • Water Temp: 37.04 ° F
  • Flow: 910 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 1.70 ft
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USGS

Madison River near Cameron MT

  • Flow: 1070 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 2.49 ft
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USGS

Madison River bl Ennis Lake nr McAllister MT

  • Water Temp: 35.24 ° F
  • Flow: 1940 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 3.04 ft
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USGS
Chance of Snow
Monday
Chance of Snow
50%
Partly Cloudy
Tuesday
Partly Cloudy
10%
Snow
Wednesday
Snow
80%
Partly Cloudy
Thursday
Partly Cloudy
10%
Snow Showers
Friday
Snow Showers
80%
.

Rapids and Float Notes

The river is broken down into multiple sections. The park is a wade fishery that is popular in both the spring and fall as rainbow and brown trout. The river then flows into Hebgen lake which is an excellent summer fishery with large “gulpers.” The big trout cruise near the surface looking for big mayflies.

Below Hebgen is referred to as Between the Lakes. This short tailwater section comes out of Hebgen and flows into Quake Lake. It is also a great fishery despite the short length. Below Quake Lake the river runs through a steep chute then flattens out into what is called The Upper. This is the long riffle section where most of the fishing takes place. No major rapids but it has plenty of boulders and a few bridges that can get dicey in high flows.

Just below the town of Ennis, the river enters Ennis Lake. The lake also has some good trout fishing. Below the dam begins Beartrap Canyon. This canyon does not see a ton of fishing pressure as it’s difficult to access in the middle section. It is a great whitewater run through here with a few great drops.

Madison River Boat Ramps and Fishing Access Sites

Yellowstone National Park – No boating here. Great access for wade fisherman.

Between the Lakes – You can’t float fish and there is not a boat launch. You can however use a pontoon boat or canoe to cross the river. Getting to the opposite bank can be a huge benefit for wade fishing.

Raynolds Pass – You can fish from the Slide Inn area if you want as well. Floating from Raynolds down is allowed but float fishing is not allowed until Lyons. You can use a boat to access water, then get out and wade fish.

Lyons Bridge – 9 miles. This is where the float fishing begins and it’s a fairly popular launch site.

South Madison – 10 miles down

West Madison – 4 miles down

Mcatee Bridge – 3 miles. Signed but you need to take a dirt road for a mile off the highway.

Varney Bridge – 12 miles. Easy access site about 12 miles from Ennis.

Eight Mile Ford – 6 miles. Good launch site to float back to Ennis. Braided in this area, be prepared to stay in the main channel or you can miss the takeout.

Burnt Tree Hole – 1 mile. Another easy access near Ennis.

Ennis – 2 miles. Immediately upriver from the town bridge. Easy boat ramp, also has a campground that is great if you want to access services and food in Ennis.

Valley Garden – No floating allowed between Ennis and the lake. It braids out heavily and Valley Garden is an excellent option for wade fisherman.

Powerhouse – Launch a raft right below the dam and get ready for some whitewater.

Warm Springs – 8 miles down. After the Beartrap canyon, you can launch at this site. It’s mellow water from here on down. Taking out at Black’s Ford is popular in the spring. Heavy tuber traffic in the fall.

Black’s Ford – 7 miles. Another easy access site on the lower river. Good takeout.

Greycliff – 4 miles. Drive a few miles of dirt road to extend your float. After this, it’s a good ways on dirt.

Cobblestone – 9 miles. Walk-in only

Milwaukee – 7 miles. Just before highway 90.

Blackbird – 1 mile. Very close to Milwaukee.

Missouri River Headwaters – 3 miles after Blackbird and you are in the Missouri River.

Shuttle Services

Dorothy Shuttle Service – Upper river. 406-682-4886

Meadowlark Shuttles – Upper river. 406-682-4188, 406-581-4626

Beartooth Outfitters – Upper river. 406-682-7525

Driftaway Shuttles – Upper river. 406-640-0433

Bob’s Shuttles – Lower River. 406-595-0587

River Gal Shuttles – 406-685-3500

River Specific Fishing Regulations

Exceptions to Standard Regulations: Madison River Montana


Yellowstone National Park boundary to Hebgen Reservoir

  • Catch-and-release for rainbow trout, except anglers 14 years of age and younger may take 1 rainbow trout daily and in possession, any size.
  • Combined trout: 5 brown trout daily and in possession, only 1 over 18 inches.

Hebgen Dam to Quake Lake

  • Open entire year

Quake Lake outlet to Lyons Bridge

  • Open third Saturday in May through the end of February.
  • Catch-and-release for trout, except anglers 14 years of age and younger may take 1 trout daily and in possession, any size.
  • Artificial lures only.
  • Closed to fishing from boats/vessels.

Lyons Bridge to McAtee Bridge

  • Open third Saturday in May through the end of February.
  • Catch-and-release for trout, except anglers 14 years of age and younger may take 1 trout daily and in possession, any size.
  • Artificial lures only.

McAtee Bridge to Varney Bridge

  • Open entire year.
  • Catch-and-release for trout, except anglers 14 years of age and younger may take 1 trout daily and in possession, any size.
  • Artificial lures only.

Varney Bridge to Ennis Bridge

  • Open entire year.
  • Catch-and-release for rainbow trout, except anglers 14 years of age and younger may take 1 rainbow trout daily and in possession, any size.

Ennis Bridge to Ennis Lake

  • Open third Saturday in May through the end of February.
  • Catch-and-release for rainbow trout, except anglers 14 years of age and younger may take 1 rainbow trout daily and in possession, any size.
  • Closed to fishing from boats/vessels.

Ennis Dam to the mouth

  • Open entire year.

West Fork

  • Catch-and-release for rainbow trout

Madison River Photos