Difficulty IV-V
Length 6 Miles
Gauge N/A
Flow Range
Reach Info Last Updated 04/02/2019 12:52 am

River Description

East Rosebud Creek is perhaps the best Class V creek on the east side of the Montana Beartooth mountain range.  Many would argue that this distinction belongs to Big Timber Creek.  But the character of the East Rosebud is significantly different from Big Timber.  Big Timber is an unbelievable run with huge drops, but is pure “huck your meat.”  East Rosebud, on the other hand, offers 3 miles of continuous, non-stop Class 5 without any big falls.  If you enjoy continuous Class 5 and you are confident you can run it without rolling, the East Rosebud is unbelievably fun.  If you roll more than a few times, you probably are not going to enjoy this run.


The run starts at East Rosebud Lake, a community of summer homes.  Put in at the boat launch right next to the foot bridge.  There was a gage on the last bridge for automobiles but it was removed and not replaced a couple years ago when the new bridge was built.  The flow can now be gaged by looking at a big rock right in the middle of the river when you pass over this last bridge.  If the water is just going over this rock a little but the whole rock is wet, the flow is perfect.  This translates into a flow of about 3.0 on the old gage.  If rock is completely dry, you’ll be banging down rocks all the way down.  If the rock is underwater, get ready for full-on, continuous Class 5/5+.

The run really gets going about a quarter mile below the bridge.  Here, there is a huge, house sized rock in the river.  After this huge rock is the mankiest rapid on run.  Fight your way down this and the run then cleans up a little.  About a mile after this first rapid is the crux of the run, Cliffs of Insanity – marked by large cliffs on the river right.  The entrance has a dangerous piton rock.  After Cliffs there are two more big rapids before river calms down a little as you approach another bridge – the “Two Mile Bridge.”  This is a good place to catch your breath.  After the Two Mile bridge, the action picks back up and there is another big rapid as the river takes a big turn away from the road.  Be careful here, as it is one of the few sections of the river than can’t  be scouted from the road on the way up.  After the last rapid the river calms down considerably and approaches the road - approximately 3 miles from the lake.  Most paddlers take out here, but if you feel like floating a little longer, you can take out 3 miles further down at the Sand Dunes Campground.  Most of this section is flat, but there are a couple class 4 rapids near the campground and floating this section gives you an opportunity to check out the great scenery – something you will not be focusing on during the first 3 miles.

Lat / longitude coords of the takeout are approximate.

Rapid Descriptions


No Gage

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Directions Description

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No Accident Reports



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Flathead River Tributaries Get Protection for Christmas (MT)

Kevin Colburn

Wild rivers and their enthusiasts got some good news with the release of the new 15-20 year Forest plan for the Flathead National Forest. The decision newly protects 22 streams as eligible for Wild and Scenic designation, based in large part on the advocacy of American Whitewater and our awesome partners and members in Montana. These protections will serve as a vital steppingstone to the designation of some of our Nation’s most outstanding headwater streams. 

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East Rosebud Creek is a New Wild and Scenic River!

Kevin Colburn

August 2, 2018, the President's signature marked the exciting finale of nearly a decade of efforts to protect Montana's East Rosebud Creek from hydropower development and other impacts. Twenty miles of this beautiful stream were designated as a Wild and Scenic River as it flows from the rugged Beartooth Mountains between Big Timber and Red Lodge, Montana. East Rosebud is treasured by local residents, paddlers, anglers, hikers, and other visitors.

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Bill to Protect East Rosebud Creek Heads to President's Desk!

Kevin Colburn

The Senate yesterday passed Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte’s bill that protects 20 miles of the East Rosebud in south-central Montana as part of the Wild and Scenic River System. Here at American Whitewater we are overjoyed by the bill's passage, and would like to thank the entire Montana delegation for working together in a bi-partisan way to protect this wonderful stream.

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Congressman Gianforte Introduces East Rosebud Wild & Scenic Bill (MT)

Kevin Colburn

Earlier today Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte introduced legislation to designate Montana’s East Rosebud Creek as a Wild and Scenic River! The bill matches bipartisan legislation introduced earlier this year by Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 2018, this popular bill is now well positioned for passage if the Montana delegation can shepherd it through Congress. We’d like to thank the delegation for championing this bill!

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East Rosebud Creek (MT) Proposed for Wild and Scenic Designation!

Kevin Colburn

Yesterday Senator John Walsh (D-MT) introduced legislation to designate a spectacular 20 mile section of Montana's East Rosebud Creek as a Wild and Scenic River.  Designation will protect the stream from future hydropower dams, water quality degradation, and other impacts, while allowing continued enjoyment and uses of the stream.  American Whitewater fully supports this move and looks forward to permanent protection for East Rosebud and other worthy streams in Montana. 

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Montana Dam Proposals to be Withdrawn!

Kevin Colburn

The company that has been seeking permits to build three new hydropower projects in Montana announced today that they are abandoning their proposals - for now.  This is a great relief for the many Montanans that care about the incredible paddling, fishing, and scenery of East Rosebud Creek, West Rosebud Creek, and the Madison River.  

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Appeal Challenging Montana Navigability Is Denied

Jason Robertson

On May 28 the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by Mountain States Legal Foundation who filed a lawsuit in June 2001 alleging the 1985 Montana Stream Access Law violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution to regulate who floated over their land.

The decision thereby protects Montana's Stream access law and public rights of navigation throughout the State.

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River Recreationists Win Big in Montana!

Jason Robertson

The Missoulian newspaper reported on January 5th, 2001 that U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell dismissed a case brought by the Mountain States Legal Foundation challenging public recreational rights on Montana’s rivers and streams. This is a huge win for boaters and fishermen!

Matt Muir


Kevin Colburn


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1190813 01/19/02 n/a n/a
1196930 12/21/09 Kevin Colburn
1196928 12/21/09 Kevin Colburn
1196929 12/21/09 Kevin Colburn
1196931 12/21/09 Kevin Colburn
1211689 04/02/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1211526 03/25/19 Kevin Colburn updated image position
1196932 12/21/09 Kevin Colburn