The Blackfoot River of Southwest Montana

Blackfoot River

"Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise."
- Norman Maclean, River Runs Through It and Other Stories

The opal pools and emerald riffles of the Blackfoot River have run through the collective imagination ever since Norman Maclean's 1976 novella A River Runs Through It. The story elevated the Blackfoot from a simple trout stream to a literary masterpiece. The river begins its journey near the Continental Divide, a few miles northeast of Lincoln. The upper half of the Blackfoot cuts across Southwest Montana from Lincoln to Ovando before running into the Clark Fork near Missoula. From Lincoln to Ovando, the Blackfoot flows at a leisurely pace through scenic valleys and narrow, twisting canyons. The distance from Missoula ensures that this stretch of river doesn't get overly heavy use. Don't let the smaller crowds fool you, the river is superb. The river swirls with holes and riffles full of very hungry twenty inch trout. Fewer people also mean that an abundance of wildlife - elk, moose, bighorn, osprey, and eagles - populate the area. The state land on the banks gives ready access to camping along much of the river, and the calm, but often twisting, waterway caters perfectly to canoeists and kayakers. No better occupation could be found than plying the banks of this classic blue ribbon trout stream, fly rod in one hand, Maclean's book in the other.