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Everything You Need To Know About The Yellowstone River

For many people in Montana, the Yellowstone river is more than just a landmark, it is a way of life. There is a lot to love about the river.. For some, it’s the admiration of its grandeur and beauty, for others, it is a part of their occupation and livelihood, and for some it’s for simply having some fun. From fly fisherman to whitewater rafters, the Yellowstone River has something special for every outdoor enthusiast.. Because there is so much love for the river by local and traveler alike, we wanted to shed a light on details of the river.


The Yellowstone River is about 700 miles long. It starts in Northwest Wyoming, from the continental divide where the South and North fork of the river meet. After running into Yellowstone Lake, it flows North through the National Park. It then moves further North out of the park, past Gardiner, then on to Livingston. It then leaves the park, winding between the Absaroka and Gallatin Mountain Ranges through Paradise Valley. This is a great spot for some whitewater rafting around the town of Gardiner and Yankee Jim Canyon, as well as some excellent fly fishing spots. After Livingston, the Yellowstone River runs east towards Billings, MT. After traveling across the Great Plains,; it merges with the Missouri River in North Dakota. From there, the Missouri River then runs all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico. The Yellowstone River is the last free flowing river in the lower 48, which means the river is not dammed at any point. This supports the wildlife in the river, the tourists that come to enjoy themselves, and the natural resources found in and along the river.

History of the Yellowstone River

It is likely that the Yellowstone River’s name originates from a Native American word and is named after the yellow rocks of the Grand Canyon of the River. The Yellowstone River was originally used as transportation for Native American tribes like the Crow, Sioux and Cheyenne. The river’s transportation use greatly helped these tribes with hunting and trade. The nature and use of the river changed in the late 1800’s when gold was discovered in the Dakotas. Miners and settlers utilized the river for hunting, trade, and transportation. As the areas around the river began to be settled more and more, the river then started serving the function of irrigation. This was accelerated by the construction of the Northern Pacific Railway in the 1880’s.. Nowadays, the river is still used for irrigation, but is also frequently used for recreational purposes.


With the growing popularity of the National Park; the Yellowstone River has been used for world class whitewater, recreation, and other adventure activities. It has become a very popular destination for tourists and locals seeking adventure. Raft or kayak the Yellowstone through the intense, class II & III whitewater through the town of Gardiner. Or, take it up a notch and brave the massive rapids in Yankee Jim Canyon. For the less intense rafters , scenic floats through Paradise Valley by raft are always an excellent alternative. If you are looking to spend some time relaxing outdoors; fly fishing on the rich banks of the river is the perfect activity. The Yellowstone River is a blue ribbon trout stream and for approximately 200 miles, offers some of the best fly fishing in the world. So plan your next vacation to visit the Yellowstone river and start your next great adventure!