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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey buzzards,

I am hoping you all can suggest a few possibilities for class I-III multi-day trips, 2-3 nights each. We have a young daughter...she'll be six by the time we do this trip. We would like to float at least three stretches---can be pretty far apart, as we are taking our time and sightseeing along the way.

Not doing this until July of 2016 so permits are not an issue at this point, but I want to have plenty of time to do all the research, buy the guide books, etc.

Thank you in advance for any and all help! Best, Kristy
 

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Can't beat the Yellowstone. Try for a smith permit. As far as Idaho lower salmon is fun. Might be a bit much for a 6yo unless they are seasoned river brats. 2016?! You have a lot of time. Flathead might also be an option. South fork snake in SE idaho. Grande ronde.
 

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To elaborate on what Spider said. North Fork Flathead would be perfect. 3-5 days from the border to the confluence depending on flows and time in the boat. No permit draw. You are essentially linking day floats but it feels much more like an mandatory overnighter and you can camp car assisted or away from road access.

Smith is awesome but permits can be difficult, especially in peak season but can be fairly easy by mid july BUT flows can be hit or miss also. It's likely something that you'd either have to get a late June/early July permit (odds are against it) or get a mid/late July (highly likely) and have to play by ear and have an alternate plan. it's 4-5 days and really should be a must do for every river rat.

There are some stretches on the Blackfoot that are worthy... no permit but you'd need to piece logistics together based on flows and time of year.

Main salmon would be great (I'd take my 4 year old at lower flows for sure, and plan on it this year permit willing). I'm not very familiar with the lower salmon.

The Grand Rhonde is awesome (eastern Oregon/Washington). Many options for 2-5 day floats. We did the Washington stretch this June and we all loved it. You could travel another 4 hours west to the John Day, also perfect for your situation with several options from 1 to 5-6 day

I agree with the Yellowstone to a point, there are tons of options but all are linking day floats. There are no roadless, mandatory over nighters. I've floated everything from Gardiner to Columbus over the years, if I were to put together a multi-day it would be below Livingston. There will be a lot less people and more options for river camps. Mid summer above Livingston you will not feel secluded to say the least, but it is picturesque.

SF Snake has an overnighter that can be stretched to 2 nights and is beautiful with great camping. Plus there are some whitewater day runs fairly close (Alpine). Same thing with the Flathead branches as well (lower NF and MF).

If linking overnighters is your thing the Big Hole is one of my favorite rivers and has several stretches you could link and camp from a car or you boat.

There are more but those are my highlights.

Good luck...

P.S. - How do you plan 2 seasons in advance? I can't seem to plan 2 months in advance!
 

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Of the MT options listed I think all would struggle for CL III rating. The reality is most montana streams come down steep and rugged mountains and quickly enter wide vast valleys. Not conducive to multi-day *whitewater* trips. Basically everything listed is float and fish water except a short section on yellowstone. If pushing the whitewater end of things is important for keeping the kiddo happy I would consider the MF Flathead from the wilderness boundary to west glacier. It's roadside but doesn't really feel like it and will provide multiple sections of fun CL III with plenty of I-II to soak in the scenary. Since it's roadside you can car camp every night. Might not be what you are looking for but it might be the perfect combo to start the trip and get the camping dialed in. Plus you can leave camp and get ice cream in under 20 min every night which is pretty awesome.
 

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Paddling in to the Future
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Took a 4 year old on the lower salmon this summer. I'm sure a 6 year old would be fine. the area did burn up this last summer. so not sure the scenery would be the best. but it should have fresh green if anything.
 

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The Lower flathead is a great kids float. The water is aquamarine blue and there are few people. Completely flat water, and you need a reservation recreation permit. More off the beaten path than any other family float in MT IMO yet not in the middle of nowhere.
 

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July 2016???!!!
Way to plan ahead Cats. Yall better come on out this summer, the glaciers might be gone by 2016
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thank you very much for your replies, folks!

To answer your question about why we plan so far in advance, I don't know the area at all as we usually go to UT and CO when we head west, so I'd rather do lots of research early on. We also have several bad habits, one of which is endurance riding on horseback, so we go west every other year and try to do more riding during the other years. Finally, planning to go west helps keep us sane--it will be 17 years before we can finally uproot and move West, so spending time researching is good for my head.

I have already youtubed a few of the rivers you all have suggested, and many look very good, so this a great place to start. We would love to do the Smith, and I am aware that it is really difficult to secure a permit and a very small window at that. Flatwater suggestions are great, as we'll be taking along newbie family members.

Thank you for all of your help. I really appreciate it! Best, Kristy
 

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I'm eyeballing the Grande Ronde myself. That looks like a really great family friendly float and I can open boat it while my buddy schleps all my gear on his raft. Wahoo!
 

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The Grande Ronde is great fun. we do it ever year. just a nice relaxing 3 day float. nothing exciting, just beautiful country, peace and quiet with a river running through it.
 

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best chance of good water on the smith is June, July can be a little low with the flow, so apply for an early July permit..IHMO
 

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I floated the Lower Salmon last summer with a six and eight year old. The Lower Salmon is a fantastic trip for kids. Very warm water after mid July, no flow issues and some of the best beach camping you will find.

The trip is best with five or six days, the draw back is the last twenty miles on the Snake is very flat (we motor out).

Try to avoid the Snake on the weekend, there tends to be heavy jetboat traffic.




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I plug the Main Salmon or Lower Salmon after July 10 or so, and it's perfect for kids. Just enough WW for fun. Great online guide for Lower available via BLM, and lots of info on web for Main. Main is greener, cooler than the Lower, but water is warmer the lower you go. Hot springs and historical cabins on Main are fun. Enjoy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hi there!

Yes, but plans have shifted a bit. I am driving out alone & my husband will fly in to meet me. I will have my dog with me and my brother & sister-in-law will meet up with us for some overnights, so wanted to do tame water.

I decided to stay in MT. I didn't want to spend too much time driving between floats.

We will hit
1.) Missouri near Helena to do day trips & fish
2.) N. Fork Flathead for an overnight, then auto-tour Glacier (anti-dog rules)
3.) Missouri from Coal Banks for a 3 day/2 night trip
4.) Bighorn River day trips... another fishy river

Thanks for your input! Happy spring floating.
 

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The Missouri below the dams and the Big Horn are very similar. Both tailwaters loaded with fish and people. Both also get very weedy by mid July. Still fishable but best on top mornings and evenings.

Don't miss the Pole Bridge Bakery when on the NF! and if you like to drive off the beaten path hit the "inside road" from Pole Bridge to Apgar. It's a 20-30 mile gravel road through Gods country. If you must see things from a car, gravel roads are the way to do it!
 
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