- West Yellowstone is surrounded by rivers, lakes and streams – the Gallatin, Yellowstone and Madison Rivers; Hebgen and Quake Lakes; or any of the smaller streams and rivers are all ideal for mid-summer water fun.
- If you can’t bring your own water toys, you’ll find rentals available for water sports of all types.
There's no better way to cool off on a hot summer day than to enjoy one of the many rivers or lakes surrounding West Yellowstone. Whether you prefer taking an exciting whitewater trip down the Gallatin River, a relaxing canoe, kayak or paddle board ride on Hebgen or Quake Lake, or fish the depths for large trout, you'll enjoy yourself no matter what the pursuit. There are a variety of water sports available in the West Yellowstone vicinity including whitewater rafting, scenic float trips, kayaking, canoeing, sailing, fishing and, of course, swimming.
The Gallatin River runs north out of Yellowstone National Park through a deep canyon. The river is narrow and swift in the early summer and has rapids ranging from Class I-IV. The Gallatin is perfect for rafting or whitewater kayaking and fishing.
The Yellowstone River flows north out of Yellowstone National Park, through the town of Gardiner, MT (32 miles from West Yellowstone). The majority of the river is flat, but there are Class I-III rapids near Gardiner. The Yellowstone also has world-class fishing.
The Madison River runs west out of Yellowstone National Park, flowing just north of West Yellowstone. It then flows through Hebgen Lake and shortly after Earthquake Lake, before turning north through a deep canyon. There are fun Class I-IV rapids for rafting and kayaking, in addition to good fishing spots.
Upon leaving the Yellowstone National Park boundary, the Madison enters Hebgen Lake just 10 minutes north of West Yellowstone. Hebgen Lake is a very popular spot for fishing, ice fishing, sailing, kayaking and canoeing, with a variety of marinas offering boat & kayak rentals, plus you can ride your own personal watercraft.
Quake Lake is a relative newcomer to the area, created in 1959 by a large earthquake. Visitors can still enjoy fishing (including ice fishing) and boating on the lake, and the more adventurous can tackle the large white-water rapids (Class III-V) above and below the lake.
Boating in Yellowstone National Park
The park rents outboard motor boats and row boats at the Bridge Bay Marina. If you bring your own boat, kayak, or canoe, a permit is required for all vessels including float tubes (permits can be purchased at various locations throughout the park). A Coast Guard approved wearable personal flotation device is required for each person boating.
All vessels are prohibited on Park rivers and streams except the channel between Lewis and Shoshone Lakes; only hand-propelled vessels are permitted here.
Rentals, Guides and Fees
West Yellowstone, and the surrounding areas, all have places to rent boats, watercraft and PFDs, buy fishing licenses or hire guides to help make your trip perfect. Fees for different waterways vary depending on activity and season. Inquire locally before setting out.