Seldom Seen Floats: Smith River, Montana

Full of remote limestone canyons

Instead of racking the canoe up for the year, how about sneaking in a fall float full of remote limestone canyons, sweet camping, and outrageous trout fishing? All the hubbub on the Smith takes place in the early summer—thousands competing for permits, gnarly weather, crowds at the put-in. Give it a pass, wait until the irrigation shuts down in late August, and take your chances with fall flows. The weather’s more consistent, the corridor is quiet and full of color, and the sense of ebbing season is palpable. Call the permit office for advice, but almost no one floats in the fall, so the usual protocol is to self-register at the put-in and launch. Try it once and you’ll never bother with the spring crapshoot again. Four days is adequate, five will allow you to saunter.

BEST WINDOW: early Sept. through mid-Oct.

MINIMUM FLOW: 125 cfs at Camp Baker.

LENGTH: 59 miles from Camp Baker to Eden

DIFFICULTY: Class I-II+.

FLOAT TIME: 4-6 days.

TIP: Watch the 90 degree corners with rock walls.

CONTACT: 406-454-5861, http://fwp.mt.gov.

BACKUP: Wild and Scenic Missouri. Coal Banks Landing to Judith Crossing, or Judith Crossing to Highway 191 bridge.

— AK

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