Difficulty II-III
Length 32 Miles
Gauge Blackfoot River near Bonner MT
Flow Range 200 - 10000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 day ago 858 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 12/18/2019 8:42 pm

River Description

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.



Rapid Descriptions

Thibodeau Falls

Class - N/A Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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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12 years ago

new online whitewater guide for montana area paddling - check it out! www.montanaeddyhop.blogspot.com

Gage Descriptions

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.

Directions Description

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.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2008-06-28 High Fatality High Water Read More



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Blackfoot River Management Plan Released (MT)

Kevin Colburn

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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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!

Kevin Widerman


Matt Muir


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1214052 12/18/19 Kevin Widerman updated image position
1201846 02/07/13 Kevin Widerman
1212200 05/08/19 Kevin Widerman updated image position
1212099 05/01/19 Kevin Widerman updated image position
1190778 06/11/08 n/a n/a