Photo by Jim Klug

Photo by Jim Klug

Getting on the water
Even if you’ve already rowed a raft, cast a line, or floated a tube down a southwest Montana river, there’s always another exciting option for anyone wanting to try something new.

Whether you’re just starting out or want to hone your skills, consider taking a lesson from the ASMSU Outdoor Recreation Center (ORC). Lessons typically include instruction in paddling, rolling, safety, equipment and other basics.

Ready to head out? Attend one of the outings hosted by the ORC for kayaking, whitewater rafting, or paddleboarding. To learn more about instruction or outings, visit

If you decide to go on your own, check the weather forecast and water level before loading the shuttle rig. Buy a map and know where potential hazards are, like diversion dams, fallen trees, and boulder fields.  Always paddle with a partner, scout your line, and prepare for emergencies.

Start out  in mellow water like Moose Creek Flat on the Gallatin, or on a local pond or pool. Here, new paddlers can learn about river dynamics, entering and exiting the kayak, effective paddling techniques, and boating safety in a relatively controlled environment.

To ensure a fun and relaxing time, follow safety protocols and river etiquette at all times . Most often, boaters are not alone on the river, and it’s only respectful to give other river enthusiasts their space.

If you’ve advanced enough to paddle beyond flat water, start off on mellow sections of the Yellowstone River like the “town stretch,” or Yankee Jim Canyon during lower flows. These areas are known for easy river access, moderate rapids (Class II-IV), and decent waves to surf.

Another great spot to hone newly acquired skills is the “upper stretch” of the Gallatin River. The Gallatin—aka, the “Shallowtin”—can be daunting, but with a dependable “combat roll” and conservative lines, the upper Gally is perfect for practicing technical kayaking skills. For this stretch, put in at Moose Creek and take out at the Lava Lake trailhead.