The Big Blackfoot River is a wonderful river for many types of river enthusiasts. In the spring the run is a friendly and fun class II/III whitewater run. Highlights include Thibedeaux Rapids in the middle of the run, and "The Ledge" which offers great wave surfing, loops, and even long boat enders depending on the flow. The Ledge is only in when there is a moderate spring flow. As summer wears on, the water levels drop, the Blackfoot becomes a tubing mecca for Missoulians seeking to escape the heat, especially from Whitaker Bridge to Bonner. All the while, the river remains an angling classic, which was immortalized by the book (and movie) A River Runs Through It.
The river flows through a large valley and is bordered by ponderosa pines, sage, and a healthy riparian shrub community. Paddlers often see deer, elk, eagles, osprey, beaver, and a large variety of other Montana wildlife. The river is actively managed by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. Montana FWP now maintains boat-in only designated campsites along the Blackfoot. To reserve a Blackfoot special-use permit, call FWP at (406) 542-5564. Permits are available for use at the sites beginning June 15.
About two miles below Whitaker Bridge. Class II-III depending on flow, watch for the large rock right-center as the river drops.
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There really is no flow that is too low to paddle the Blackfoot. In the spring when flows are up it is a great whitewater flow, and by late summer it is more of a fishing/tubing float but still offers some whitewater for paddlers with a bit of experience.
Permits are not required for this reach.
There are numerous access options scattered about every 3 miles along the river. Most paddlers end their trip at the large Johnsrud access area and chose an upstream put in based on how much time they have. Shuttle is an easy bike ride or hitch. There is also a parking area about 1/4 mile upstream of Johnsrud at The Ledge which provides park-and-play opportunities.
on Blackfoot @Scotty Brown Bridge to Johnsrud Park
Summer at Johnsrud
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.
On March 18, 2010 the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) released their new management plan for the Blackfoot River. After conducting their analysis and considering public input, FWP decided not to institute a limited permit system on the Blackfoot.
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