You Belong Outside Spotlight: Gallatin River Kayaking

Mike Perry on the Gallatin
The Gallatin River is  home to some of the best whitewater in Southwest Montana.  Between Big Sky and Squaw Creek there are some great rapids ranging from class I to class IV.  The river is exciting during spring runoff but can be more technical at lower levels.  Check the river conditions before you go.

Brit Theison leaving Moose Creek
Getting there: From Bozeman the easiest way to get there is head west on Main Street (Huffine) and turn South on HWY 191 at Four Corners.  Great places to put in are Deer Creek, Moose Creek, 35 MPH Bridge but any pulloff will do.  Most people will take a couple cars and leave one at the takeout as a shuttle.  The river can be busy during the peak season with rafting parties and other kayakers, so keep that in mind when choosing places to put in and take out.

Overview:From Moose Creek to the Storm Castle takeout is about 10 miles and can be split into two different floats.  The Gallatin is a great road side river that you can scout almost all of the rapids before you get there.  The first half of the float between Moose Creek and Cascade Creek (commonly known as the 35 MPH Bridge) is typically in the class I-class III range and offers some great moderate water before the more challenging  section after the 35 MPH bridge.  It is recommended that any novice paddlers take out at the 35 MPH bridge because the lower section is more difficult and can be a long swim if you wet exit from your boat. Also keep in mind that the river will run very differently depending on the river flows, beware of wood in the river and at low water the river can be very rocky.  On the other side of the spectrum high water washes out some rapids and makes others much bigger know the river conditions and be adequately prepared.
Brit Theison in the Mad Mile

The Paddle: The upper section has some great smaller rapids starting with the Swan Creek rapid, from there you get a break before the rapids start picking up Barbie's Revenge, Picture Rock, and New Rock rapids quickly dump you into the Screaming Left Turn Rapid.  This is one of the best rapids of this section.  After that you have three more rapids before the 35 MPH bridge.  The best of these is the middle one named the Hilarity Hole.
From the 35 MPH bridge you go through a two mile section of river that is tighter, the water is faster, and the rapids are bigger making this it a test piece for Southwest Montana.  Starting with the Entrance Exam and the Snaggletooth rapid you head toward House Rock a class IV rapid that is a gathering point for photographers and tourists watching boaters paddle by.  Directly down river is dubbed the "Mad Mile," a narrow class III-class IV boulder field that is non-stop and packs a punch, many local paddlers have swam this section and often it turns into a long swim because there are not the options to eddy out.  Once you are through the Mad Mile enjoy the views and relax a little bit till you get to the takeout located on the west bank (paddlers left).  From there its time to pack up your shuttle car or hitchhike and repeat!

Mike Perry Paddling Past House Rock
Mike Perry running the Gallatin during high water 2011 
Once you're done:  Head down to Stacey's Bar in Gallatin Gateway for a drink and some food, also a great place to check out some country music like 10ft Tall and 80 Proof or The Dirty Shame.

There are several other sections worth paddling on the Gallatin; putting in at Deer Creek gives you another section of river to enjoy, and a good class I-class II section exists from Storm Castle north to the Storm Castle bridge or Spanish Creek Bridge.  For more information check out one of the river maps available at the barn.
Paddling is a dangerous activity and having the right equipment and a good crew are necessary for a safe outing.  Another option to get out on the Gallatin is to take a guided raft trip.  Montana Whitewater has a location right on the river, check out their website for more information.  For more info on local outdoor areas check out the Our Backyard section of our website.  Your comments and critiques are welcome as we spotlight areas of Southwest Montana we know and love.
Last Post:  Madison River Bouldering 

1 comment:

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