Flatwater kayaking is one of the best ways to explore the Basecamp; with a good boat, proper technique and the right gear, it’s relaxing and fun. On river trips, the current will even do most of the work. There’s no better way to spend a summer day than in the freedom of a boat built for one.
A special word of caution: even the mildest trips present risk. Montana’s variable weather can mean high winds and icy waters even in summer, and the threat of hypothermia is real. Drownings have occurred in shallow water near shore. Match your trip to your experience and prepare for weather, terrain and the chance of an unexpected swim. Seek instruction with a qualified guide. Above all, wear a life jacket—pack yours before loading your boat. [/vc_row]
THE MIGHTY MO
The entire stretch of the Missouri River from the base of Holter Dam to its emergence onto the plains can be floated in kayaks—but it’s a long haul. A popular day trip puts in at Craig, passing below steep canyon walls and taking out at Prewett Creek, a distance of about 15 miles. A shorter, more secret version begins at the dam, runs through some of the best fly fishing in Montana, and ends 7 miles later in Craig. See Headhunters Fly Shop’s map for details.
THE WHITE CLIFFS
This primitive stretch of the Missouri is famed for its unspoiled nature and association with Lewis and Clark. Although well known, not many kayaks make the three-day trip from Coal Banks Landing to Judith Landing as it passes below chalky cliffs, castles and natural arches. The trip involves overnight camping, which means additional preparation and carefully packing food, shelter and gear into your boats.
GLACIER'S BIG LAKES
Farther north, Glacier Park is home to some of Montana’s most spectacular lakes—so it’s hard to call them secret. But you’ll still find room on Two Medicine and Swiftcurrent Lakes to paddle beneath stunning, jagged peaks. Prepare carefully; high winds can turn these waters into inland seas and they’re frigid year ’round. Note: all kayaks must be inspected before entering the water to protect against invasive mussels. Check Glacier’s website for inspection site info.
Nestled behind the Front north of Bean Lake, Gibson Reservoir offers more acreage and is surrounded by timber and peaks. Put in at the access point above the dam—not the lower diversion dam when you first enter the canyon! Paddle across the lake and back with great views toward the Bob Marshall Wilderness. For details, click here.
North of the Missouri, Bean Lake is a small prairie pothole with great views of the southern stretch of the Rocky Mountain Front. If you’d like an easy-to-navigate lake with gorgeous scenery, this short trip from Great Falls offers a peaceful option—as long as the wind isn’t up.