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Gallatin River2021-09-21T13:44:36-07:00

Gallatin River: Rafting Through Beautiful Big Sky

The Gallatin River is the closest river to Bozeman, Montana, and winds its way along Highway 191. The river offers solid highway access and a number of rapids starting at Moose Flat through the Mad Mile where the river drops almost 100 FPM. There is more access upstream of this Put-In, but most intermediate-advanced boaters will want to challenge themselves in this section. At high flows, most of the rapids become Class IV, especially in the Mad Mile section. In addition to the fantastic whitewater, the Gallatin River runs alongside spectacular limestone cliffs throughout and ends at the aptly named Storm Castle Take-out just before the river flattens out on its way into Bozeman.

About this guide

This guide outlines the most common run on the Gallatin River.

All data points were collected using GPS. This location information is provided. These locations were checked against Google Earth for accuracy. Distances are the averages of repeated trips that were GPSed.

Put-ins and take-outs include links to their Google Map locations. Use this to accurately build shuttle directions.

River Info

The Gallatin River is most famous for its ‘Mad Mile’ section – a section of continuous Class III whitewater that flirts with Class IV during high water.

Safety

House Rock Rapid is the most dangerous rapid on this section. We recommend scouting this rapid if you have not run it before.

Permits

Permits are not required to run the Gallatin River.

Shuttle Info

The Gallatin River has great highway access throughout. There are multiple take-outs along the way. The shuttle is only about 10 minutes each way.

The Gallatin River is subject to wild changes in flow, and at both low and high water undergoes many changes. We recommend boating when flows are between 700 – 4,000 CFS. The Gallatin River is most often run during late spring into the middle of summer depending on the snowpack.

Low Flow: 700 – 1500 CFS
Medium Flow: 1500 – 3,000 CFS
High Flow: >3,000 CFS (above 5,000 is considered extreme)

Gallatin River Flow
Gauge data provided by the Dreamflows

Gallatin River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment. Go with someone with recent Gallatin experience.

Class II Rapid

Class II rapid or river feature.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Point of Interest

These include creeks, and old cabins.

Fun Zone

Well known surf waves, jump rock locations, and safe swim areas

Moose Creek Flat to Storm Castle  РClass II, III, & IV

The Lower Gallatin River offers the best whitewater in the Big Sky area, featuring the infamous Mad Mile and House Rock Rapid. At higher flows, this section flirts with Class IV.

Length

Moose Creek Flat to Storm Castle is 9.36 miles.

Difficulty

Intermediate to Advanced

Feet per Mile

Moose Creek Flat to Storm Castle is ~46 FPM

Shuttle Time

Moose Creek Flat to Storm Castle is 20 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 0 – Moose Creek Flat: River Right. This is a commonly used river access point for this stretch. It allows for some warm-up time before the Mad Mile.

Mile 1.11 – Swan Creek Confluence: River Right. Swan Creek enters the Gallatin River from the right-hand side

Mile 1.58 – No-Tell Rapid: Class II. Pick your way through the boulders in this fun rapid.

Mile 2 – Greek Creek Campground: River Right. Greek Creek Campground is another access point for the Gallatin. Park in one of the pull-outs on the highway – this is not a day use area.

Mile 2.52 – Ender’s Hole: The river splits into 2 channels at most flows. On the left side at medium flows, a kayak surf hole begins to form here.

Mile 2.66 – Beers from Heaven: Class III-. Enter towards the center of the river. At medium-high flows, a fun wave train forms on the right side of the river. at lower water, rocks start to appear which closes out the center line.

Mile 2.87 – Old Car/Picture Rock Rapid: Class III. Enter right-of-center and work to the left. Be mindful of a large pourover/hole that forms at medium flows.

Mile 3.05 – New Rock: Class II. At most flows New Rock Rapid is a fun wave train but becomes technical as the water drops.

Mile 3.25 – Screaming Left Rapid: Class III-. This rapid is indicated by a cliff on the left side of the river. At lower water, most boaters enter left. At higher water, there is a large hole at the bottom called the Catcher’s Mitt that can be avoided.

Mile 3.96 – Thumper Put-In: River Right. Just above Thumper Rapid is a highway pull-out that gives access to this rapid.

Mile 3.99 – Thumper Rapid: Class III. There are numerous holes/waves throughout this rapid. Be on your toes in this rapid and square everything up.

Mile 4.62 – Cascade Creek Confluence: River Left. On the left-hand side, Cascade Creek enters the Gallatin River.

Mile 4.72 – Straightaway Rapid: Class III. Read-and-run at lower water. At higher water be sure to T up the bigger waves.

Mile 4.98 – Catbox: A ledge hole begins to form at medium flows and offers fun surfing for rafts.

Mile 5.23 – Lava Lake Put-In: River Right. Just above the US Highway 191 bridge is the Lava Lake Put-In. Here begins the infamous Mad Mile.

Mile 5.29 – Entrance Exam Rapid: Class III. The beginning of the Mad Mile starts with an easy rapid that has waves/holes to splash through. Be mindful of the bridge downstream as you don’t want to get stuck on one of the pylons.

Mile 5.35 – US Highway 191 Bridge: Just below Entrance Exam is the US Highway 191 bridge. Enjoy the rest of the Mad Mile.

Mile 5.37 – Showstopper/Pinball: Class II. Just below the bridge is a rock garden. Going right is called the Pinball line. At higher flows, a hole known as the Showstopper begins to form on the left side.

Mile 5.5 – Old Bridge Rapid: Class III. Enter Old Bridge rapid on the right side, punching through a few waves while you work your way left.

Mile 5.51 – Old Bridge Crossing: River Right. On the right-hand side, you can see where there old bridge used to cross the Gallatin River. You’ll probably be more focused on the rapids than this bridge….

Mile 5.64 – Snaggletooth Rapid: Class III-. Enter left of center and be mindful of the barely exposed rock that emerges on the right side of this rapid.

Mile 5.67 – Two Scoops Rapid: Class III. At high water, large holes form here and it begins to flirt with Class IV.

Mile 5.91 – House Rock Rapid: Class III+. Scout left or right. This rapid takes a bit of patience. Work to get left of the Whacker Hole which can send you towards the House Rock. There is a large rock in the center of the river that you will want to pass left of. Below House Rock Rapid there is a boulder garden that can become quite tricky at higher water. Learn more about House Rock Rapid.

Mile 6.12 – Rodeo Rapid: Class II+. At high water, the Rodeo Hole becomes quite large. Go left of this hole at most flows.

Mile 6.26 – Davy Jones Hole: Class III- . Davy Jones is a large hole on river right just below an overhanging tree. Stay center to avoid this feature

Mile 6.35 – Gagoosh Rapid: Class III. Square up the waves in this read-and-run rapid.

Mile 6.52 – Prudential Rapid: Class III-. On the bottom right a rock that resembles the Prudential Logo begins to appear. You’ll want to work to stay off this rock which becomes a hole/wave at higher water.

Mile 6.58 – Magnet Rock: Class III. Enter right-of-center. At higher water, the current wants to push you left toward the Magnet Rock. Work to stay in the center to avoid getting pushed into this rock.

Mile 7.43 – Above Storm Castle Take-Out: River Left. This is the most commonly used take-out for this stretch of river. Below here is mostly Class I-II riffles, but the scenery is spectacular below here so it is a way to wind down after the Mad Mile.

Mile 7.89 – Storm Castle Creek: River Right. Storm Castle Creek enters from the right-hand side. There is wonderful hiking up this road.

Mile 8.49 – Hell Roaring Creek Confluence: River Left. On the left-hand side of the river, Hell Roaring Creek enters the Gallatin River.

Mile 9.01 – Storm Castle Take-Out: River Right. Take-out on the river right. This is a nice take-out and offers nice scenery.

Mile 9.34 – Lower Storm Castle Take-Out: River Left. Most people don’t run below this take-out as there only Class I/II riffles.

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