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The Yellowstone River is a tributary of the Missouri Rivermarker, approximately long, in the western United Statesmarker. Considered the principal tributary of the upper Missouri, the river and its tributaries drain a wide area stretching from the Rocky Mountains in the vicinity of the Yellowstone National Parkmarker across the mountains and high plainsmarker of southern Montanamarker and northern Wyomingmarker. It is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 states.

Geography

The river rises in northwestern Wyoming in the Absaroka Range at the Continental Divide in southwestern Park Countymarker. The river starts where the North Fork and the South Fork Yellowstone River converge. The North Fork, the larger of the two forks, flows from Younts Peakmarker. The South Fork flows from the southern slopes of Thorofare Mountain. The Yellowstone River flows northward through Yellowstone National Park, feeding and draining Yellowstone Lakemarker, then dropping over the Upper and Lower Yellowstone Fallsmarker at the head of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstonemarker within the confines of the park. After passing through the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone downstream of the Grand Canyon, the river flows northward into Montana between the northern Absaroka Range and the Gallatin Range in Paradise Valleymarker. The river emerges from the mountains near the town of Livingstonmarker, where it turns eastward and northeastward, flowing across the northern Great Plains past the city of Billingsmarker.

East of Billings, it is joined by the Bighorn River. Further downriver, it is joined by the Tongue near Miles Citymarker, and then by the Powdermarker in eastern Montana. It flows into the Missouri River near Buford, North Dakotamarker just upstream from Lake Sakakaweamarker. At the confluence with the Missouri, the Yellowstone is actually the larger river.

In Montana the river has been used extensively for irrigation since the 1860s. In its upper reaches, within Yellowstone Park and the mountains of Montana, it is a popular destination for fly fishing. The Yellowstone is a Class I river from the Yellowstone National Park boundary to the North Dakota border for the purposes of stream access for recreational purposes.

History

The name is widely believe to have been derived from the Minnetaree Indian name Mi tse a-da-zi (Yellow Rock River). Common lore states that the name came from the yellow colored rocks along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, but the Minnetaree never lived in along the upper stretches of the Yellowstone, and some scholars think that the river name came from yellow colored sandstone bluffs on the lower Yellowstone instead. The Crow Indians who lived along the upper Yellowstone in Southern Montana called it E-chee-dick-karsh-ah-shay (Elk River). Translating the Minnetaree name, French trappers called it Roche Jaune, which was used by mountain men until the mid 19th century. Independently, Lewis and Clark recorded the English translation of Yellow Stone after encountering the Minnetaree in 1805 and that name eventually won out. The river was explored in 1806 by William Clark during the return voyage of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the Clark's Fork of the river was named for him.

The Yellowstone River was an important artery of transportation for Native Americans as well as for white settlers by riverboat in the 19th century. The region around the Big Horn, Powder and Tongue rivers is the traditional summer hunting grounds for a number of Native American tribes. Gold was discovered near Virginia City, Montanamarker in the 1860s, and two of the primary routes for accessing the gold fields were the Bozeman Trail and the Bridger Trail both of which followed the Yellowstone for a short length. Anger at settler intrusion into the hunting grounds lead to Red Cloud's War and the Treaty of Fort Laramie in 1868 which granted the Black Hillsmarker and the Powder River Country to the Lakota. This region included the drainages of the Big Horn, Powder and Tongue rivers. Gold was discovered in 1874 in the Black Hills and subsequent fighting spilled over into the Great Sioux War of 1876-77. In 1876, a column of men under Colonel Gibbon departed Fort Ellismarker near Bozeman, Montanamarker and traveled down the Yellowstone to meet up with the Dakota Column under General Alfred Terry who was traveling upstream from North Dakota. Terry formed a base of operations at the mouth of Rosebud Creek on the Yellowstone, and from there General George Armstrong Custer departed with the 7th Calvary on the expedition that ended in the defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighornmarker. Survivors of the battle were later ferried down the Yellowstone to Fort Abraham Lincoln on the Missouri River. In the decades after the war the Crow Indian Reservation and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation were created south of the Yellowstone in Montana.

Many of the early expeditions to the area that would later become Yellowstone National Park arrived by following the Yellowstone River, including the Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition and the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition. In the early 1870s the Northern Pacific Railroad made an attempt to extend rail service along the Yellowstone to Livingston from Bismarck, North Dakotamarker which was finally completed in 1883. By the early 20th century, Northern Pacific was providing train service along the river to the north entrance of the park near Gardiner.

Angling the Yellowstone

The Yellowstone River is considered to be one of the great trout streams of the world and is officially classed as a blue ribbon stream in Montana from the park to the confluence with the Boulder rivermarker east of Livingston and from the mouth of Rosebud creek near Rosebud, Montana to the North Dakota border. The lack of dams along the river provides for excellent trout habitat from high inside Yellowstone Park, downstream through Gardinermarker, the Paradise Valley, Livingston, and to Big Timbermarker, a stretch of nearly . The Yellowstone varies in width from to , so fishing is normally done by boat. The most productive stretch of water is through Paradise Valley in Montana, especially near Livingston which producesbrown trout, rainbow trout and native cutthroat trout as well as Rocky Mountain whitefish. From Billings downstream to the North Dakota border, anglers seek Burbot, Channel catfish, Paddlefish, Sauger, Smallmouth bass, and Walleye.

Yellowstone Lake to Yellowstone Falls
Yellowstone River, Fishing Bridge, July 1959.
The river inside Yellowstone National Park provides accessible flat water fishing and abundant Yellowstone cutthroat trout. The portion of the river through the Hayden Valley is closed all year long, but the rest is accessible and easily wadable. No floating is allowed. Numerous insect hatches occur following the opening of the river on July 15th providing anglers the opportunity to try numerous artificial flies including Pale Morning Duns, Green Drakes, Gray Drakes, Caddis and salmonflies.
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstonemarker and Black Canyon of the Yellowstone
Black Canyon of the Yellowstone near Gardiner, MT
The canyon reaches inside Yellowstone National Park are accessible only by hiking or horseback. The river here is usually quite swift, with sheer canyon walls in spots. Below Knowles Falls, about four miles upstream from Gardiner, anglers will find browns and whitefish in addition to the rainbows and cutthroat trout.
Gardinermarker to Yankee Jim Canyon
Just south of Yankee Jim Canyon
This section of the Yellowstone holds a good population of medium-sized rainbow and cutthroat trout, with a few big browns as well. The first half of this section from Gardiner to the bridge at Corwin Springs is mostly fast water, with some class II and III white water. From Corwin Springs to Yankee Jim Canyon, the river flattens out substantially and gives the angler more time to cast to fish along the banks.
Yankee Jim Canyon
Yankee Jim Canyon is the Yellowstone's best white water, with several major rapids. Steep canyon walls make it a difficult stretch to fish. Because of the potential danger floating the Canyon many commercial fishing guides do not float this stretch, though recreational floaters are common.

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Tom Miner Bridge to Emigrantmarker
Yellowstone River near Emigrant
From the Tom Miner Bridge (or the Carbella access just downstream) down to Point of Rocks, there is some excellent water, lots of fast pocket water with several nice pools. Once the river reaches the Point of Rocks, the gradient decreases substantially and the river turns into slower, longer pools.
Emigrant to Mallard's Rest
Drift Boat Fly Fishing on the Yellowstone near Grey Owl
Just downstream from Emigrant is Grey Owl, one of the best fishing access points on the river. From here down to Mallard's Rest there is a pleasant mix of big pools and large browns and rainbows.
Mallard's Rest to Carter's Bridge
Armstrong Spring Creek near Mallard's Rest
This section of river known as Paradise Valleymarker provides some of the most spectacular scenery on the Yellowstone, along with some of the best fishing. The scenery is dominated by the Absaroka Mountains to the east and the Gallatin Mountains to the west. Along this stretch numerous spring creeks flow into the river, many of which are blue ribbon trout streams in their own right, such as DePuy Spring Creek. Rainbows dominate this part of the river, but browns can be found here also.
Carter's Bridge to Highway 89 Bridge
Winter Ice Near Carter's Bridge, January 2008
Because the Yellowstone flows right through Livingston between these points, this is known as the "town stretch". Given the presence of the upstream spring creeks for spawning, this reach of fast water is ideal habitat for rainbows which make up most of the population here. The use of a drift boat is the best way to access this stretch, though there are some good access points for walking and wading as well.
Highway 89 Bridge to Big Timber
This section starts about five miles to the east of Livingston, just off Interstate 90, where Highway 89 turns north, toward White Sulphur Springs. This lower river, from here on down through Big Timber is similar to the water around Livingston, but the riffles and pools are farther apart so there is more unproductive water. The fish populations are not as high as in the upper river and water through town, but there are some very large rainbows and browns to be caught in this stretch. In late summer, wind gusting across hayfields blows a lot of grasshoppers in the river which creates explosive reactions from big fish.


Advocates

  • Yellowstone River Conservation District Council - The council’s purpose is to provide local leadership, assistance, and guidance for the wise use and conservation of the Yellowstone River’s natural resources.
  • Trout UnlimitedTrout Unlimited's mission is to conserve, protect and restore North America's coldwater fisheries and their watersheds.
  • Western Watersheds Project — The mission of Western Watersheds Project is to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation.
  • Montana River Action — The clean flowing waters of Montana belong to the people and are held in trust by the State for a pollution-free healthful environment guaranteed by our Montana Constitution. Montana River Action's mission is to protect and restore rivers, streams and other water bodies.


See also



Further reading



References

  1. Stream Access in Montana
  2. Montana Blue and Red Ribbon streams
  3. Montana Fish and Wildlife Fishing Guide-Yellowstone River
  4. Yellowstone River Conservation District Council website
  5. Trout Unlimited website
  6. Western Watersheds Project website
  7. Montana River Action Website


External links




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