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Old 12-26-2014   #1
Seattle, Washington
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 29
Dearborn River Mt. Campsite Info?

I'm interested in a multi day fishing trip on the Dearborn. I understand there is lots of private land with minimal public space above high water marks. I am interested in camp sites without conflicts with landowners. Any suggestions?

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Old 12-27-2014   #2
Sembob's Avatar
Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 484
It's very difficult to camp legally on the Dearborn. I have floated it many times and always camped illegal. Don't set up till late and keep a small tidy camp. The closer you get to the Missouri the sparser the camping.
The window for fishing is very small. Too high/too low can happen quickly. I would just pick a time during the week and don't worry so much about the fishing. The Mo will fish great anyway. I have floated the Dearborn recently when it looked perfect and the fishing has been terrible. I think something happened to the waters, the fish haven't been in there for years now. I'm not sure why. It is still a beautiful float. Very similar to the canyon of the Smith.
The Trout Shop in Craig does shuttles. Most people put in at the last place the river and highway 287 meet. You could go higher and I have always wanted to do that. Once the runoff is waning and the waters green a little it is perfect and you can get any size boat through but you can't back up right to the water and there is a fence you need to load gear over. Still it's not bad.
Hopefully the fishing comes back as it used to be pretty good. Lots of big stones (goldens and a skwalla look a like).
If I were coming from out of state I would plan the trip around the Missouri. The Big Hole too. Come over when those rivers are fishing and if a window opens for the Dearborn then great.
If your in Craig make your presence known at the Troutshop and tell them your intentions. You may or may not get some camping advice but they will let you know when it's at least at a good floatable level.


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Old 12-28-2014   #3
Nosebleed, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1977
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 138
There is a large bench on river right about 2 miles down from the putin. It is below the high water mark. Other than that, there are no options until low water. I have done low water trips in a solo canoe and camped on the gravel bars. Fishing was excellent at those levels and the small camps were exquisite.
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Old 12-29-2014   #4
elkhaven's Avatar
Belgrade, Montana
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 1,659
It is a beautiful canyon! I've only floated it once and the fishing sucked for us too, but we were on a Bachelor party and had fished the Mo for days before, so the Dearborn float was all about partying.

There are two pieces of state land that the river intersects on the lower (and most popular float). The first is from about 2 to 3 miles below the 287 put in. There is another very small piece just about half way. It is on very sharp 180 degree bend and would include several small camping sites. I haven't overnighted the river so this is based on Montana parcel information. Another option would be to put in at Hwy 200 and float to the state piece 2 miles below 287... that would be roughly 10 miles of floating through all private land to a section of state land that the river flows right through the middle. If I recall correctly it would leave you 17-18 miles to get out our maybe 8-10 to the second piece of public. The second public piece appears to be pretty isolated while the first has several ranch roads traversing it, but there should be plenty of camping sites.

There are several other stretches occasionally floated above but they have even more limited public land. The 434 bridge down to 200 has one piece of state land about 2 miles from the put in. Another put in at the Dearborn Canyon road put in has no public land along it. Note in each of these cases there is no public land at the put in, you are using the highway right of way to access the river and it can be fairly difficult to put in without carrying your rig in piece by piece.
Yesterday's gone on down the river and you can't get it back. - Agustus McCrae
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Old 12-29-2014   #5
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Bozeman, Montana
Paddling Since: 1980
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 484
And make sure you shuttle your vehicle away from the put in ASAP. They are very tight.

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Old 12-29-2014   #6
Seattle, Washington
Paddling Since: 1993
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 29
Thanks everyone for the info.

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Old 01-07-2015   #7
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Lewistown, middle of MT
Paddling Since: 1982
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 222
Never camped - always just blew threw in one day. They have a great sign at the put in that says pretty much "hey river scum you can't camp here" . It's not that graphic but that is certainly the point.

If you lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known. Winnie the Pooh
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