Difficulty III-V(V+)
Length 4 Miles
Gauge Dearborn River near Craig MT
Flow Range 600 - 1200 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 47 minutes ago 534 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 05/08/2019 5:01 pm

River Description

The Upper Dearborn is a sweet, off the beaten path run that is well worth the effort. After Hiking about 4 miles in on a good trail there is an easy access point down to the river just above a couple of substantial looking drops.

These first two run well though they are not the prettiest. The Dearborn rolls on for a bit with Class III drops and boogie water before reaching the next notable drop. This is a straightforward 6 foot ledge that is really fun. A little further down you find a powerful ledge drop that charges through a mean hole backed up by a large rock. This one runs quite clean, though it definitely looks intimidating.

After some more read and run boogie, you come to a log over the river that can be paddled under. Stop above this and scout the difficult gorge section on the left. The gorge starts with a couple small Class III drops leading into a very powerful 5 foot ledge that immediately charges over a thundering 12 foot falls. The swirling eddys below the spigot are steep and difficult to get out of. You are literally sitting about two feet below the exit point. Check this carefully before running at flows over 750. After this the river pinches into a barely runnable boulder jumble. It is not difficult, but one must avoid slipping into the right channel that is feeding directly into an undercut.

Shortly below the gorge there is good access back to the river on river left(the portage side) for those who choose not to hit the gorge. One more 8 foot falls and you are home free, with a chance to relax and soak in the incredible view.

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Rapid Descriptions


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Directions Description

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National Forest Protects 360 Miles of Streams in Montana

Kevin Colburn

In a big win for rivers, the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest released their new Forest Plan this month. The Forest includes the classic Multi-day section of the Smith River, the headwaters of the Blackfoot River, and the rugged and beautiful Rocky Mountain Front region of Montana. The new Forest Plan offers interim protection for 360 miles of incredible rivers by finding them eligible for Wild and Scenic designation – triple the river miles protected under the old plan. A full 250 of the protected river miles are on whitewater rivers. American Whitewater and the paddling community has offered support for this decision since at least 2014, and the Forest Service has done a great job.

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Congress Passes River Conservation Bills

Kevin Colburn

In the final days of the 113th Congress, several river conservation measures have been passed designating significant new Wilderness Areas and Wild and Scenic Rivers in areas vitally important to the paddling community.

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AW Supports the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (MT)

Kevin Colburn

American Whitewater recently sent a letter to Senator Max Baucus formally supporting the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.  The Act seeks to offer additional protections for Montana's iconic and dramatic Rocky Mountain Front by way of 70,000 acres of Wilderness designations and the creation of a new 200,000 acre National Conservation Area.

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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!

David Schroeder


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1194147 07/22/04 David Schroeder n/a
1211546 03/26/19 David Schroeder updated image position
1212151 05/06/19 David Schroeder updated image position
1212202 05/08/19 David Schroeder updated image position
1212203 05/08/19 David Schroeder updated image position