Clark Fork River Montana Fly Fishing, Camping, Rafting

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Clark Fork River

Just west of Butte, Montana a small spring creek emerges and flows north and west through Missoula, eventually to the Idaho border. It gains momentum and size along the way and becomes one of the longest AND largest rivers in Montana.

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What can I do and see on the Clark Fork River?

Great brown and rainbow trout fishing can be found pretty much anywhere between its origin and its confluence with the Flathead River. The question you need to ask yourself is what type of fishing you like best.

  • Spring Creek Wade Fishing: Head to the rivers origin near the Warm Springs Wildlife Management Area, just east of Anaconda, Montana. You can easily wade fish the Clark Fork from Warm Springs all the way to Deer Lodge.
  • Float the Clark Fork: From Clinton to the Milltown Dam in Missoula you can enjoy fishing from a canoe, float, or drift boat. This section is fed by both Rock Creek and the Blackfoot, highly increasing the flow and making a great environment for fly fishing.
  • Missoula: The section of the Clark Fork that runs through Missoula is heavily used. If you want to avoid the crowds, avoid this section.
  • Below Missoula: Below Missoula, the river enters the steep Alberton Gorge, a fantastic whitewater stretch. While there are some great fishing holes along the way, most anglers avoid this section of river due to the difficult access. From St. Regis to Paradise there are a number of great places to access the river with a boat.


  • Alberton Gorge: Some of the best whitewater rafting around can be found along the Clark Fork, specifically the Alberton Gorge just below Missoula. The 16 miles between Alberton and Tarkio Access Site offers a fantastic series of rapids, including Class IV. A number of outfitters offer day trips on this section.
  • Brennan’s Wave: Right in the heart of Missoula, whitewater kayakers flock to the man-made Brennan’s Wave. It’s located right next to Higgin’s Street Bridge.
  • Scenic Float: For a scenic float, try the section between Tarkio and the town of Plains.

Where is the Clark Fork River?

The Clark Fork begins as a small spring creek just west of Butte, Montana. It flows north through Deer Lodge and then west through Missoula with Interstate 90 at its side the entire way. From Missoula, it flows west through the deep Alberton Gorge. At St. Regis, the river heads north, leaving I-90 for Thompson Falls and eventually dumps into Lake Pend Oreille near Sandpoint Idaho.