Kootenai Creek is the most accessible and high quality creek run in the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys. The creek starts high in the Bitterroot Mountains and flows through a spectacular but low gradient glacial canyon before the bottom drops out about 1.25 miles upstream from the canyon mouth. The upper part of the run is studded with nice class III and IV drops seperated by short sections of calmer water. Then, the final quarter mile or so falls in a nearly continuous series of 3-10 foot bedrock drops. All these drops are fun and runnable, and an occassional eddy exists between them. The highlight for many is the 10 foot falls which requires a good boof and a river-right line to avoid the room of doom on the left. The bedrock nature of the creek and its easy access make it a staple for many area paddlers.
The Kootenai Creek trailhead is located a short drive up N Kootenai Creek Road from Highway 93 and is well signed. You can't miss the big sawtooth ridges above the canyon. From the trailhead, hike up until you get tired or run out of gradient and put on. Be sure to carefully scout for wood on your hike up!
In 2006 new signs went up at the trailhead preventing people from legally taking out right below the steep stuff as was the historical practice. The first bridge downstream has been made intentionally inaccessible by landowners who filled in the easement with brush. Access at the bridge is legal though based on the new MT stream access law. It is strongly recommended that paddlers either take out IMMEDIATELY below the last major drop and before the slot canyon (still on private property - access at your own risk), or more preferably at a bridge downstream. DO NOT take out after the final slot canyon on the historic takeout trail.
New online guide for Montana area whitewater; check it out!
Want to see more photos of Kootenai Creek? Check out my website. www.infinitymountain.com
Pretty much by sight, but kind of relative to the USGS gauge of Bitterroot @ Darby. Usually if the bitterroot is above 2500 cfs, Kootenai Creek will be good. In early spring the lower drainages melt out first and Kootenai can start running when the Bitterroot is at 900 cfs.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Kootenai Take-Out Sign
Entrance to the lower drops
Shiloh below the falls
Kootenai Creek Falls
Drop on Kootenai Creek
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
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.
Log into the American Whitewater website and you can contribute to river descriptions,
flow and access tips, and maps associated with runs you've done. You can even add new
runs to the inventory!