There is no better place to wake up than on the banks of the Blackfoot River with the never-ending sound of water flowing and the shrill call of a bald eagle perched overhead.
Overnight floating trips combine two of the best summer recreation activities, floating and camping. But too often overnight trips require multiple days making it difficult for most who only have a weekend to get out.
The Blackfoot River east of Missoula is just the place to load the tents and stoves into a raft and turn a fishing expedition into a camping trip.
If the flows are high enough the popular launch point is on the North Fork of the Blackfoot at Harry Morgan fishing access site. From there the float winds through braids and past log jams on crystal clear water full of tenacious cutthroat trout eager to eat.
Note that due to the technical nature of the North Fork this small section is intended for a rower with at least intermediate skills.
After a few miles the North Fork meets the main Blackfoot River. On river right is River Junction FAS where designated float-in camping is available.
The next day the river makes its way through a cliff-lined canyon then on to a more open landscape with sweeping views in all directions. For those hoping to avoid the whitewater features of the river it’s recommended to get off at Russell Gates FAS, which is a perfect day float from River Junction.
For floaters interested in more technical rowing and some whitewater, the sections below Russell Gates offer more adventure and additional float-in campsites.
In 2012 Fish, Wildlife and Parks began a pilot reservation system for float-in campsites on the Blackfoot River. The program meant floaters could arrive without worrying about campsites being taken by those driving to the site.
River Junction, Ninemile Prairie and Corrick’s River Bend fishing access sites all have float-in camping. The Clearwater float-in site is located on private property near the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clearwater rivers. Greenough is located on private property about three-quarters of a mile upstream of Ninemile Prairie FAS.
Montana’s stream access law allows recreation, including camping, below the high water mark, as well.
Each of the six reservable float-in campsites is available by special permit only. The first-come, first-serve permits must be obtained a minimum of 48 hours in advance by contacting the Region 2 FWP office at 406-542-5564.