Mill Creek - along Mill Creek Road into Frenchtown

Mill Creek, Montana, US


along Mill Creek Road into Frenchtown

Usual Difficulty V (for normal flows)
Length 2 Miles
Avg. Gradient 275 fpm
Max Gradient 390 fpm

River Description

This was described as one continuous, two-mile rapid, with lots of little drops, slides, and one ten-foot drop. "They're mostly Class-IV rapids, but because of strainers and must-make eddies, it's a good idea to have Class-V skills," read the description. In view of the Comment submitted below, it's clear that this stream should be considered very dangerous, full-on Class V.

Also as the comment alludes to, there was a fatality on this creek in the Spring, 2002. You can read the eyewitness account here. As the Comment below points out, the combination of high gradient and constant strainer action makes this this a very dangerous creek, which most would consider not worth the trouble. Rather than being removed, it's being left in the River Inventory in order to warn paddlers who might otherwise consider running it.

In response to the Comment shown below, Cody Howard has sent the following to me. I believe it gives a good description of the creek.

My name is Cody Howard. I ran the creek with Ryan when he died, and i would like to add to what Mr. Shawn Robertson wrote. I fully agree with him that this creek is really dangerous and not worth the effort unless you want to portage log jams all day. I think that this creek should definitely stay in the River Inventory to warn people of the dangers. Here's some info I would like to give about the run and some tips if (despite the warnings) you do decide to run Mill Creek.

- Start up high above the steep section and get a feel for the creek. It's extremely low volume and a different type of paddling. (Most of the time you won't use your paddle.)
- When you come to a steel pipe that comes out from underneath the road on the right, GET OUT and portage the next 100 yards (log jams and sieves).
- Put in right below there and you should be in the steepest section of the creek. The creek will take a few easy drops and then split around an island; take the LEFT-hand side and that will take you on a fast slide that abruptly turns left (try to stay left on the side because the right is dumping onto rocks) and then over a couple of drops. Try to stop after the slide and scout, from river left, the ending half of this drop, Mill Creek Falls. Nothing big, about a ten footer, but tricky approach and shallow landing on the left. Take the center slot in the falls and aim right so you end up in the deeper part of the pool, and then eddy out river left in the pool to portage a log jam.
- From there it's very fast and a there are basically NO EDDIES, and a few dangerous log jams. We were broaching on shore and grabbing branches to get out and portage. Don't underestimate this section, it's not as easy as it looks and it's extremely dangerous. SCOUT BEFOREHAND!!
- Finally there is a slide that you run on the right because of a piton rock on the left. And then you call it a day.
- Bring a hacksaw, your head on straight, and class-5 skills to run it. But I would not underestimate this creek. Good luck and happy portaging! If you have any more quesions about it, e-mail me at


Lat/longitude coords are educated guesswork. There's a road that goes along the creek, so one could get a look at it and choose where to put in and take out. There are no map links in this page, because there's no reason to encourage people to go run this dangerous creek.
StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2002-05-10 06:49:34


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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
May 8 2002 (6059 days ago)
Shawn RobertsonDetails
My name is Shawn, I'm an instructor for
the University of Montana and an avid
creeker in the Missoula area. I wanted
to mention that a student past away
this spring on Mill Creek. In the 4 or 5
years since Mill Creek was first run
only a very small group of expert
boaters have paddled it and most of
the decents were done in easily
excapable ,creek specific inflatables.
The reason for this is Mill creek was
extremely tight, pinny and full of brush.
Though is not super steep this run is
in no way anything less than a class V.
In the past three years not a single
local that I know of has ran the creek.
There is many reasons for this, an
extensive logging project has made it a
strainer nightmare, there are no quality
clean drops to speak of, and the
fun/hazard ratio is rediculously skewed
toward the harzard end. I would like to
request you take this creek off your
listing entirely. There is no justification
for it being on. Though it was run a few
times years ago, it should no long be
considered a legitamate run for the
Missoula area. Thanks

Rapid Descriptions

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 along Mill Creek Road into Frenchtown, Mill Creek Montana, US (mobile)