Three Days, Three Montana Rivers

Long weekend triple-header

For years I've hungered to spend the month of May moseying around Montana, car camping, and running those ephemeral spring flows that are only available for a month, or a week, or on some years, nada. I have an image of me and my lawn chair or hammock in riverside campgrounds, sipping at a cup of jo or some other beverage, and contemplating the next day's stretch of current. And every morning, plopping the boat onto another spring flow – the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone, perhaps, or the Tongue, the Dearborn, the St. Regis, the Sun. A whole month. What a concept!

Yeah, except that a month is hard to come by, and especially for me, the month of May. So that particular fantasy has joined the ranks of all the other great notions on that mental wish list. Until this year, when, for three days, I got enough of a taste to give the notion legs. Enough that, one of these years when I can steal May, and while I can still wield a paddle in whitewater, I know it's damn well worth doing.

My Memorial Day lineup was Belt Creek, the Upper Dearborn, and the Blackfoot, in that order. Different camp every night, some miserable weather, leavened by some spectacular interludes. Most of all, heart-thumping fun, scenic as it gets, great company around the campfire, and rollicking days on pieces of water that only thrill for a couple of weeks every spring.

Check!

Belt Creek

Class II-III rapids, ponderosa groves and a beautiful limestone canyon


Upper Dearborn River

This section of the Dearborn is popular for a reason – the river is beautiful and forgiving


Blackfoot River

15-24 miles fast water through lovely river bottom