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River Floating Near Bozeman
by Lindsey Keeley
I can't even believe how quickly this year has gone. Here we are in July already! And from the chilly depths of winter we have emerged to arrive in nearly 100 degree weather. Luckily, there are several great rivers to float not too far from Bozeman.
For you out-of-towers, floating is a popular social event in Montana. It began with the inner tubes of tires and some folks plopping into the river and following the current. It has evolved to include rubber tubes (from single-sitters and up to 8 people) that have everything from ways to tie onto your companions to nets in the center and built-in coolers. From this, you may infer that floating is typically an adult pastime. As such, please note you are not allowed to bring glass containers into the river whether they hold alcohol or water due to safety.
Now for what you need:
- Sunscreen (trust me, you'll get burnt without it)
- A tube (these can be bought at just about any grocery store or gas station. I recommend Ace or Murdoch's if you're looking for the higher quality tubes, however)
- A pump for your tube
- At least one friend
- At least two cars
- Other drinks if you'd like (Remember you'll be out in the hot sun where alcohol will more easily affect you. Please consider this if you are driving.)
How it works:
- Sunscreen up just before you leave. This will give it time to soak in. You may want to add more on your face just before you start your float.
- Pack your tubes and anything you plan to take on your float in one car.
- Pack your towels in the other.
- Drive to your take-out location (to be discussed below). Leave the car with the towels in the drop spot. TAKE THE KEY TO THAT CAR WITH YOU!
- Load everyone up in the second car (or cars, depending how many of you there are) and drive to the drop-in spot. Leave the other cars in that spot. TAKE THE KEYS WITH YOU!
- Pump up your tubes and hop in!
- Once you reach your take-out spot, have the driver of the first car bring the other drivers back to their cars and return to pick up the other folks. If there are only two of you, you can just head home from there.
Places to go:
This is an easy and popular float. The river is walkable the whole way so it is also one of the safest ways to go. The directions to this one are very simple. Head west! From downtown Bozeman, you would head west down Main Street, continue west down Huffine, continue west as you go through Four Corners (as if heading to Norris). Your take-out spot is Black's Ford Fishing Access (about 40 minutes from downtown).
Your drop in spot can technically be anywhere after that, but the Warm Spring's Creek Day Use Area is the most popular as it gives you almost exactly a 2-hour float and there are bathrooms and lots of parking.
If you're a first-time river floater, there is a great new company that takes you from start to finish (including tube rental). Check out the Madison River Tubing HERE!
This is a great float for those looking for more of a nature float. The river winds around with more greenery and trees. Your take-out spot is William's Bridge and your drop-in is downriver at Sappington Bridge. To get there, you'll head west once again toward Four Corners. Once you reach Four Corners, turn left (south) onto Gallatin Road. A little under 10 miles down Gallatin Road, you'll see the turnoff for William's Brige.
You'll need to float the Jefferson in the first half of the summer, as it gets low from drought and irrigation usage.
Who doesn't love the Paradise Valley? The is another great nature float. You do need to be wary of high water (check out fishing websites or call Murdoch's for updates), but this river does provide a number of drop-in spots so you can make the float as long as you wish. Between Gray Owl and Mallard's Rest was about a 3.5 hour float. HERE is a map of all the fishing access sites.
Remember safety first! Rivers are dangerous, so be on your toes. Wear a life jacket if you are not a strong swimmer!
Do you have any favorite floating spots? Share in the comments!
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