While the mountains and big sky tend to take center stage, there are over 145,000 square miles in Montana that are home to more than just high peaks and incredible hiking trails. Meet our abundant waterways. From glacial-fed lakes to the last free-flowing river in the continental United States, Montana's bodies of water offer a variety of activities for experiencing the best of summer.
Anchoring the state's water recreation in the north is Flathead Lake. The largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, Flathead is more than 200 square miles in size and has 185 miles of shoreline, which are home to state parks, public access sites and some of the cutest towns in western Montana. On-the-water offerings include sailing, kayaking, fishing and boat tours, as well as easy access to lakeside dining. In the summer months, this region is also home to Flathead cherries, which grow in orchards along the lake and can be picked up at roadside fruit stands.
Travel south to Montana's Bitterroot Valley and splash around Lake Como near Hamilton. Enjoy the beauty of the surrounding mountains while recreating on the waters and complete your adventure with a trip to Darby to taste some delicious chocolate at Old West Candy & Antiques Gallery.
Rounding out the region's water adventure offerings are a few incredible rivers—including the Middle Fork of the Flathead River and the Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot rivers. The currents are ideal for fly-fishing, scenic floats, stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP), whitewater rafting and kayaking.
Nestled among the vast landscapes of northeastern Montana are rivers and lakes, with the largest water playground being the Fort Peck Lake Reservoir and Recreation Area. Sitting at 134 miles long with over 1,500 miles of shoreline, Fort Peck Lake is home to some of the best fishing in Montana, with fish that include walleye, northern pike, Chinook salmon, lake trout and smallmouth bass. And while fishing takes center stage on the lake, its size provides plenty of opportunities for summer relaxation. Cruise the lake on a boat, or spend an afternoon paddling the shoreline in a kayak or canoe.
More local fishing opportunities can be found on the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, as well as the Nelson Reservoir between Saco and Malta.
Anchoring the water recreation offerings in Southeast Montana is one of the state's best-kept secrets, Bighorn Canyon. Sitting at 60 miles long and spanning both Montana and Wyoming, Bighorn Lake—and the accompanying Bighorn Canyon—is a place you have to see to believe. The cliffs rise at least 1,000 feet above the lake, creating spectacular on-the-water views. You can bring your own boat, canoe or kayak, or rent a pontoon boat from Ok-A-Beh Marina near Fort Smith to cruise the lake on a summer afternoon. As an added bonus, there are a handful of campgrounds on Bighorn Lake that are only accessible by boat. Spend the night and experience the clear sky and incredible stargazing this area is known for.
And while lakes in the southeast are abundant, this part of Montana is also home to the Yellowstone River—the last free-flowing river in the lower 48 states.
From its starting point in Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone River travels about 670 miles until it meets the Missouri River in North Dakota. Fishing enthusiasts flock to its blue-ribbon waters to cast for big, beautiful trout. The river is also ideal for scenic floats, running rapids or floating on kayaks while taking in the views of rolling plains and limestone bluffs.
Find more information on Montana's water recreation and start planning your trip at WWW.VISITMT.COM
About The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development (MOTBD)
MOTBD markets Montana's spectacular unspoiled nature, vibrant and charming small towns, breathtaking experiences, relaxing hospitality and competitive business climate to promote the state as a place to visit and do business.