Yellowstone River

We plan on paddling the Yellowstone River starting mid June. We plan on putting in below Yankee Jim Canyon and going to Williston ND. Will we have to portage qround the diversion dams. Any ohter info is greatly appreciated. Thanks

Yellowstone float
I’ve been in western Mt. for the last 20 yrs and don’t get over to the eastern end much anymore, but I lived in Sidney and Miles City my 1st 25 years and have floated most of the lower Yellowstone from Forsyth on down to the confluence; always day trips or overnighters however. The paddling won’t be a problem but the logistics of re-supplying on such a long trip (500+ miles) might be more daunting. Maybe you already have this figured out, but what I can tell you is that although there are small towns along the way, most of them are not right on the banks of the river and you will be hiking a mile or two to find a store (bring a backpack). Another consideration is water. Downstream from Big Timber the river is very muddy, similar to the rivers in southern Utah, and you will not be able to filter enough water (at least not without a lot of hassel). I have heard of using powdered alum to settle the sediment but have no idea how well this works. There are some fishing access sights and a few campgrounds but it is not a given that they will have water. I would check with Fish Wildlife and Parks on this. Speaking of FWP they published (20 years ago at least) a guide to floating the lower Yellowstone (Billings to confluence) called Treasure of Gold. If this is still in print it would be highly recommended. Lots of good info including river maps, access points, diversion dams etc. June will be the peak of the run-off, which will be good on the lower stretches but bears caution on the upper reaches where you are starting. By July expect temps anywhere from 80 - 100, and precious little shade. Good luck, should be a memorable trip!

Looking for a 2 or 3 day stretch
We were thinking about doing a 2 or 3 day paddle on the Yellowstone somewhere in the Billings area, this spring/summer, anyone have any suggestions for that?

Jeff in South Dakota

Yellowstone River is Low
I’m from Billings. The Yellowstone is very low. There are 6 diversions. In normal years, in May/June/early July, you may be able to go around them. I don’t think you will be able to this year. You will have to carry around them. Below is the USGS stream gaging site. Look under the Yellowstone River basin for stream flow info. You may need to get out a lot due to riffles. I paddled last fall when the stream was about this high and broke 3 ribs in my wood and canvas canoe.

– John

Some aids to navigation…
A paperback book: Floating and Recreation on Montana Rivers by Curt Thompson. 1993.ISBN 0-9636856-0-0. Has 9 pages on the Yellowstone.

A series of maps: Yellowstone River Floater’s Guide. Bureau of Land Management, Montana State Office, Billings, MT (Covers the whole river in 1 inch = 1 mile).