Rosebud Creek, East - Lake to Sand Dunes Campground

Rosebud Creek, East, Montana, US


Lake to Sand Dunes Campground

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Length 6 Miles

Rapid below the bridge

Rapid below the bridge
Photo of Pat Rogers by Jake Zywicke @ medium

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.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2009-12-21 17:31:51

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

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  • In the 2007 whitewater paddler survey, boaters were asked to complete a questionnaire after each run down the creek, and their responses were tied to the flow they boated.

  • PPL Montana is partnering with American Whitewater and the Beartooth Paddling Club to identify a preferred range of whitewater boating flows on West Rosebud Creek below Emerald Lake.

  • PPL Montana conducted a whitewater flow study of West Rosebud Creek in 2004-05, with the assistance of the Beartooth Paddlers and American Whitewater.

  • Intervention of American Whitewater on the Preliminary Permit application for the East Rosebud Hydroelectric Project proposed by Hydrodynamics Inc. (FERC P-13531).