Rattlesnake Creek at medium and high flows offers Missoulians a zoomy and splashy paddling trip through the neighborhoods and parks of the Rattlesnake valley. There are no rapids to speak of, just non-stop Class II wavetrains. The ever-present possibility (and likelihood) of strainers in combination with a lack of eddies however makes this run a poor choice for less skilled whitewater paddlers.
Currently, there are no less than nine river-wide strainers between the Duncan put-in and the Clark Fork confluence. Six occurr above the Lolo street bridge, and three occur between the Lolo Street Bridge and the Greenough Park trailhead.
Some of the upper strainers are marked upstream with large cairns, however most are not. The city of Missoula has no interest in removing the wood, so please be advised and proceed with caution.
There are also a number of braided channels and tight corners that pose a challenge to paddlers. While not without its challenges, Rattlesnake Creek offers a rare opportunity to paddle an often beautiful creek through a town, with an easy bike shuttle.
Track flows here: http://data.mbmg.mtech.edu/swamp/reports/GageReport.asp?SiteId=3897474&agency=mbmg&reqby=M&
As of 2017, there were just 2 river-wide logs across the stream from Duncan to the Clark Fork; one just below the Mountain View Bridge Pedestrian Bridge, the other just below the Alder St Bridge. The most reliable run was to stay right at every fork. Reading the gauges at the upper Greenough Park pedestrian bridge next to City Drive, good floating is from ~80 cm to ~40 cm. Above 85 the creek may run hazardously fast if strainers are encountered. Below 45 cm the creek starts to get bony.
The reason for putting in at Duncan Drive (and not above) is a river-wide hazardous dam structure that usually acts as a strainer. Water flows under the dam, through a metal grate, usually clogged with logs. You could easily lose a paddler to this structure. The section between Sawmill Gulch Road Bridge and Duncan Drive is not recommended. If you want to link, exit left above the first concrete structure encountered and portage the 1/4 mile to put in below the dam.
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Permits are not required for this reach.
There are a number of access points to Rattlesnake Creek including the end of Duncan Drive, the PEAS Farm, Greenough Park, and Brennans Wave on the Clark Fork can serve as a nice takeout. Please respect private lands that border much of the river. Also note that there is a dam just below the main Rattlesnake Recreation Area Trailhead (and upstream of the Duncan Drive Put In) that is very difficult to portage, making a trip from the trailhead unpleasant.
on Rattlesnake Creek @Duncan Drive to Clark Fork
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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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