Which waterways surround Montana?

Travel Destinations

By Erica Silverstein

Montana’s Waterways

Montana boasts numerous waterways that are vital to the state’s economy, ecology, and recreational opportunities. The state’s water resources include rivers, lakes, and wetlands that provide habitat for wildlife, irrigation for agriculture, and water for communities and industries. The waterways of Montana also attract visitors from all over the world who come to enjoy fishing, boating, and other water-related activities.

Major Rivers in Montana

Montana is home to several major rivers that flow through the state, including the Missouri River, the Yellowstone River, the Clark Fork River, and the Flathead River. These rivers play a significant role in the state’s economy and ecology. They provide habitat for fish and wildlife, generate hydroelectric power, and support recreational activities such as fishing, rafting, and kayaking.

The Missouri River

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, stretching over 2,300 miles from Montana to the Mississippi River. The Missouri River flows through Montana for over 700 miles, and its waters are used for irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, and recreation. The Missouri River is also home to a variety of fish species, including walleye, paddlefish, and channel catfish, making it a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts.

The Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River is one of the longest undammed rivers in the United States, flowing over 692 miles from its source in Wyoming to the Missouri River in North Dakota. The Yellowstone River is known for its scenic beauty, world-class fishing, and popular recreational activities such as floating and tubing. The river supports a variety of fish species, including rainbow trout, brown trout, and cutthroat trout.

The Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork River is a major river that flows through western Montana, originating in the Rocky Mountains and flowing over 310 miles to its confluence with the Flathead River. The Clark Fork River is an important water resource for irrigation, recreation, and power generation. The river also supports a variety of fish species, including rainbow trout, brown trout, and cutthroat trout.

The Flathead River

The Flathead River is a major river that flows through northwest Montana and into British Columbia, Canada. The river is known for its beautiful scenery, diverse fishery, and popular recreational activities such as rafting and kayaking. The Flathead River is also home to several fish species, including bull trout, westslope cutthroat trout, and rainbow trout.

Other Significant Rivers

Montana has many other significant rivers, including the Bighorn River, the Blackfoot River, and the Smith River. These rivers also provide important water resources, support diverse fish populations, and offer recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike.

Montana’s Lakes and Reservoirs

Montana is home to numerous lakes and reservoirs, many of which are popular destinations for fishing, boating, and other recreational activities. The state’s lakes and reservoirs also provide important water resources for irrigation, power generation, and municipal water supplies.

Some of the most popular lakes for recreation in Montana include Flathead Lake, Canyon Ferry Lake, and Fort Peck Lake. These lakes offer opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, and other aquatic activities.

Montana’s Wetlands

Montana’s wetlands are important habitats for a variety of plant and animal species, including migratory birds, amphibians, and aquatic insects. Wetlands also play a significant role in water quality and flood control.

Conclusion: Montana’s Water Resources

Montana’s water resources are vital to the state’s economy, ecology, and quality of life. The state’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands provide water resources for agriculture, power generation, and municipal use, as well as opportunities for recreation and tourism. Montana’s water resources must be carefully managed and protected to ensure they are available for future generations to enjoy.

References and Further Reading

  • Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. (2021). Montana Water Resources. Retrieved from
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. (2021). Fishing in Montana. Retrieved from https://fwp.mt.gov/fishing
  • Montana State Parks. (2021). Lakes and Reservoirs. Retrieved from https://stateparks.mt.gov/lakes-and-reservoirs
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2021). Wetlands in Montana. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/wetlands/wetlands-montana
Photo of author

Erica Silverstein

Erica, a seasoned travel writer with 20+ years of experience, started her career as a Let's Go guidebook editor in college. As the head of Cruise Critic's features team for a decade, she gained extensive knowledge. Her adventurous nature has taken her to Edinburgh, Australia, the Serengeti, and on luxury cruises in Europe and the Caribbean. During her journeys, she enjoys savoring local chocolates and conquering various summits.

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