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Blackfoot River


The Blackfoot River, sometimes called the Big Blackfoot River to distinguish it from the Little Blackfoot River, is a snow-fed and spring-fed river in western Montana. The Blackfoot River begins in Lewis and Clark County at the Continental Divide, 10 miles (16 km) northeast of the town of Lincoln (4536 feet, 1382 m). The river’s headwaters are between Rogers Pass (5610 ft, 1710 m) to the north and Stemple Pass (6376 ft, 1943 m) to the south. It flows westward through the town of Milltown and enters the Clark Fork River approximately five miles (8 km) east of the city of Missoula (3210 ft, 978 m).

The Blackfoot River is renowned for its recreational opportunities, most notably fly fishing. The Blackfoot River is a fast, cold river with many deep spots, making it prime habitat for several varieties of trout. It is one of the most famous stretches of water in the world.

The river’s canyon and the valleys were formed by the Missoula Floods, cataclysmic glacial lake outburst floods which occurred at the end of the last ice age. The Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork River experienced a record flood in 1908.

The river is featured in the 1976 novella A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean, as well as the 1992 film starring Brad Pitt, directed by Robert Redford.

The Blackfoot River is a Class I river from the Cedar Meadow fishing access site west of Helmville to its confluence with the Clark Fork River for public access for recreational purposes.

Fly fishing the Blackfoot River is dependent on spring run-off. The Blackfoot River produces good fishing as early as April, but typically the fly fishing gets good towards the end of June. Salmonfly hatches occur in May and June, and will have the river’s biggest fish looking up for the largest bugs of the year. Golden stones, drakes, PMDs and caddis are other hatches on the Blackfoot River that keep the fishing looking up all summer. Fly fishing the Blackfoot River in the fall can be outstanding. If the fish aren’t looking to the surface for their meals, streamers can produce some big Blackfoot River trout.

Floats on the Blackfoot River are very diverse. Depending on the float your Montana Fly Fishing Experience guide chooses, you may fish long slow bending corners, deep green pools, crystal clear riffles, bouldering runs, rapids, steep canyon walls, or pocket filled boulder fields. With Westslope cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, and hybrid cuttbows the Blackfoot River should be on all anglers “must experience” list!

75 mi – 120 km

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