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Madison River2022-10-06T16:27:50-07:00

Madison River: Beautiful Scenery, Big Whitewater

Roughly an hour away from Bozeman, Montana lies Beartrap Canyon. Running through Beartrap Canyon is the Madison River, which pours out of Ennis Lake. This section mixes a few Class III-IV rapids with the notorious Kitchen Sink Rapid, that becomes a Class V at higher water. This short stretch of river offers wonderful scenery, great fishing, and just enough whitewater to keep you on your toes.

About this guide

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

All data points were collected using GPS. 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 Madison River is most famous for the Bear Trap Canyon – with multiple Class III and IV rapids to keep you on your toes. It’s also known for its epic scenery and fishing.


Kitchen Sink Rapid is a dangerous rapid and is ridden with sieves throughout, especially on the left side. We recommend scouting this rapid on the right if you have not run it before. As the water comes up, Kitchen Sink Rapid becomes a Class V, and some will even elect to portage it.


Permits are not required to run the Madison River.

Shuttle Info

The Madison River has a somewhat long shuttle, and there is only highway access at the Put-in and Take-out. Both the Put-in and take-out are in public areas so you don’t have to worry about fees or parking.

The Madison River is controlled by dam release from Ennis Lake just upstream. In the spring and summer months, the Madison is at its highest flows. During periods of hot, dry weather, water may be released to cool off of water downstream in the morning hours. These spikes may be as high as 1,000 CFS, so be sure to check the flows/plan your timing accordingly.

Low Flow: 1,200 – 1,700 CFS
Medium Flow: 1,700-2,900 CFS
High Flow: 2,900 CFS

Madison River Flow
Gauge data provided by the Dreamflows

Madison River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment or experience.

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Class IV Rapid

Class IV rapid or river feature.

Class V Rapid

Class V 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

Bear Trap Canyon – Class III, IV, & V

Bear Trap Canyon is a wonderful section with a few big rapids, including the Kitchen Sink Rapid, which can become Class V at certain flows. There is wonderful scenery in this area, and great fishing to be had in the many pools.


Above Powerhouse to BLM Warm Springs Boat Launch is 8.72 miles.


Intermediate to Advanced

Feet per Mile

Above Powerhouse to BLM Warm Springs Boat Launch is ~28FPM

Shuttle Time

Above Powerhouse to BLM Warm Springs Boat Launch is 1 hour and 30 minutes round trip. Google Map directions.

Mile 0 – Double Drop Put-in: River Right. As the name implies, this Put-In lies right above Double Drop Rapid, which you can scout while getting ready to launch. Double Drop is considered a Class III-IV rapid.

Mile 0.04 – Double Drop Rapid: Class III-IV. Enter right to avoid 2 large holes that form. On the bottom right of this rapid there is a rock you’ll want to avoid. Easy to scout from put-in. At late summer flows, this rapid will likely be far too low to run. If so, put in down at Powerhouse put-in.

Mile 0.40 – Powerhouse Put-In: River Right. Put-In just above the Powerhouse if the water is too low to run Double Drop which occurs around 1,500 CFS. To avoid congestion, it is best then park your car upstream. There are rails at the put-in, which makes sliding any craft quite easy.

Mile 0.41 – Pedestrian Bridge: Just above the Powerhouse is a small pedestrian footbridge to access river left.

Mile 0.42 – Madison Powerhouse: River Right. Madison Powerhouse adds significant water to the Madison River, especially in the summer months. Usually, around 1,200 CFS is added to the river. During low flows, you will notice a huge increase in flows just downstream of this powerhouse. Some years, to decrease the temperature of the river, excess water will be pulled from the bottom of Ennis Lake.

Mile 1.7 – Whitehorse Rapid: Class III+. Enter left-of-center to avoid the main boulder, then start working right. Below here is a read-and-run boulder garden. Can be scouted upstream on the left.

Mile 3.31 – Kitchen Sink Rapid: Class IV-V. Scout Right. The dangerous side of this rapid is on the left side where there are numerous sieves. Enter left-of-center. Water pushes towards Herb’s Rock, working to split between Herb’s and the Shark’s Fin. Herb’s Rock has water pillowing off of it, so if you find yourself moving towards Herb, don’t be afraid to T it up. There are several small drops throughout the rapid. The exit has a large rock called the Camel’s Back, you can go right or left here at most flows. Learn more about Kitchen Sink Rapid.

Mile 3.92 – Greenwave: Class III. There are multiple lines. The easiest line is on the right. There is a sieve pile in the middle you can go right of. There’s a hole on the bottom that typically is runnable, but you may have carnage.

Mile 4.64 – Bear Trap Creek Confluence: River Right. Bear Trap Creek enters the Madison River from the right-hand side.

Mile 8.72 – Warm Springs Take-Out: River Left. This is the take-out for Bear Trap Canyon, and the put-In for the Warm Springs stretch, which is mostly a scenic/fishing float.

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