Kayaking & Paddling in Montana

Montana is the best place for canoeing, according to many pro canoeists who have been paddling in waters around the world. They say that Montana offers diverse types of rivers, beautiful sceneries and exciting experiences. Thrill-seekers come to visit Middle Fork Flathead, whereas those who love relaxing floats come to Missouri.


With over 6,000 miles of waters that can be navigated, the rivers and streams of Montana are perfect place for numerous visitors that come for recreation and adventure. And, according to the law, waters of Montana are available to visitors, as long as the stream offers public access.

Kayaking Basics

Jessica Fox poses for a portrait during a photo shoot at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium in Sydney, Australia on February 5, 2016.

When kayaking, you should apply some safety measures because it may become dangerous just like any other sport. It’s recommended that canoeists wear life vests that are made specifically for this type of sport. They are lightweight and do not restrict movement.

Another thing is opting for a canoe. It’s true that those more expensive are of higher quality. You should consider that canoes have different designs and sizes. There are shorter canoes and those longer ones that offer two seats. The longer ones can handle more equipment. They can be paddled easier but when it comes to turning, they are not the best. Shorter canoes provide stability but it’s difficult to get them to move straight.

When the price is in question, those lighter canoes are usually more expensive while the heavier ones are cheaper. There is also an option to rent a canoe. There are shops close to every major river that offer rental canoes with different features and sizes, as well as other necessary gear.

If you are going to camp after canoeing, you can also buy or rent additional dry bags to keep gear from swamping. You should have a tent, clothes, food and gas stove as well as a sleeping bag and cosmetics.

River Meditations

Depending on the personal preferences, people can choose to canoe in the rapids going through mountains, or visit plenty of lakes and canoe in still waters. Even visitors who have little to no experience kayaking are able to run these waters. Dangerous waterfalls are very rare in Montana.

Before you start paddling, think about how many miles, or how many hours, you would like to spend kayaking. Some people go kayaking for many, many miles and treat it as a competitive sport. Others however, visit rivers by a canoe to enjoy nature, wildlife, scenery, sparkling water and fresh air.

There are other elements that make this adventurous experience even more special – the historic monuments, national parks, areas of wilderness and much more!

Suggested Paddling

Jefferson River

If it’s summertime, this stretch is the best one to navigate. You can canoe, watch wildlife, listen to songbirds, go fishing and then spend the night camping by the fire. The stretch connecting Cardwell and Silver Star will make you want to visit again.

Missouri River


Begin the adventure at Coal Banks Landing – most frequently visited starting point at the river famous for kayaking. The stretch leads all the way to the Fred Robinson Bridge. The trip lasts five days. You will go through the area of beautiful White Cliffs. You’ll paddle the way where Corps of Discovery passed through two hundred years ago.   

Kootenai River

If you want to spend a day kayaking, this is a perfect place to visit. You can paddle 15 miles, while enjoying the spectacular view of the mountains. This stretch has one part that is not recommended for beginners though. So, avoid going four miles away from a dam, where the Jennings Rapid is located. Also, Kootenai Falls – the largest in Montana – and China Falls are places only for experts.

Tongue River

The float connects Tongue River Reservoir and Yellowstone and is easy to paddle through. You’ll see many types of fish. You should keep away from barbed wires and dams though.

Judith River

Unfortunately, this beautiful river can only be navigated in June. Throughout other months, the water level is too low. This river is flowing through the area of ranch country mostly.