Where to Go and What to Do to Best Experience Montana’s Rivers

Both the book and the movie for a “A River Runs Through It” helped to put the rivers of Montana on the map and highlighted some of the activities you can do on Montana’s rivers.

In the movie, that main activity was fly fishing and while casting a rod is most definitely one of our favorite Montana river pastimes, there’s some adrenaline-inducing fun to be had as well.

Read on for our favorite river activities in Montana, plus the best destinations to experience Montana’s rivers.

Montana River Activities

Fly Fishing: This is one of the quintessential outdoor activities of Montana. If you’ve never tried it before, Montana is the place to give it a go; there are fly fishing outfitters offering equipment and guided excursions all over the state. Nancy and Jackie often go fly fishing by our family cabin, but we share some of our other favorite spots in this article.

Whitewater Rafting: For a thrill, don’t miss out on rafting down the whitewater rapid sections of Montana’s rivers. Unless, you’re an extremely experienced whitewater rafter, it’s best to do this with a guide. We list out whitewater rafting guides in our article all about it here.

Kayaking: Rent a kayak or bring your own and explore Montana’s rivers. Similar to rafting, don’t do the whitewater sections of the rivers without a guide unless you’ve had lots of experience. If you’re new to the sport, find a calmer section of river to paddle leisurely and enjoy the scenery. Click here to read about our top picks for Montana kayaking spots.

River Cities and Towns

Many cities and towns in Montana have a “river that runs through it.” Here are some of our favorites for river activities and scenic views right in the city.

Great Falls: One of the main attractions in Great Falls is the series of man-made dams and scenic falls that cascade down the part of the Missouri River near town.

Missoula: The river walk in Missoula is a long paved path that goes through downtown Missoula right alongside the Clark Fork River. Along this path, you’ll come to Brennan’s Wave (by Caras Park), which is a must-watch river spot in Missoula during the warmer months. You’ll see river surfers and kayakers navigating a man-made wave right in the middle of the river. Missoula is also great for river kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, and fly fishing.

Lewistown: Lewistown is known as a blue ribbon trout fishing destination and is a popular fly fishing destination.

Glendive: You’ll find world-class fishing in Glendive along the Bighorn River (including a season for the elusive paddlefish). Glendive also has agate hunting hot spots along the Yellowstone River.

Gallatin Valley (by Big Sky), Paradise Valley (between the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park and Livingston), and the Bitterroot Valley are also all incredible places to experience the river life and activities of Montana.