Get Out and Float the ‘Stone
Water Adventures in Your Own Backyard
Throughout history people have settled on the border of two ecosystems.
Where the prairies meet the mountains.
Where the land meets the sea or lake.
Or along the border of a river.
It’s in these transition zones where life is abundant, and it’s easy to live on one, but cross into the other to hunt, fish, or forage. Of course, today, we don’t really need to worry about that. We settle in those transition zones now primarily for ease of shipping; ports along the ocean, access to rivers to transport goods, or a centralized airport and trucking hub.
One of the perks today of living on these borders is that we have access to phenomenal recreation. Like floating down the Yellowstone that runs through our backyard (and if you’re looking for a home in Billings, you can probably find one that almost literally has the Yellowstone River in its backyard).
The Yellowstone River Near Billings
The entire river flows for 692 miles. Starting in Yellowstone Park, it tumbles its way through canyons and gorges until exiting near Gardiner Montana. From there it flows through Paradise Valley and out into the plains at Livingston. Veering East and North East, it traverses across our state and passes right by Billings on its way to join the Missouri a little after Sidney in the Western part of North Dakota.
But it’s here by Billings where the floating is good. The river isn’t as fast or tumultuous as it was upstream just a bit, and it’s not as slow and wide as it is when other tributaries enter farther downstream.
Where to Float the ‘Stone Near Billings
A fantastic aspect of getting on the water is that there are just so many different places to put in and take out. From short trips that take just a couple of hours, to longer ones that will last all day, there’s bound to be one that fits your lifestyle.
So where are those places to drop in? Let’s start upstream, and work our way down.
Riverside Park – Laurel, MT: Just after you cross the river, as though you’re heading toward Red Lodge, there’s a small picnic area and boat launch at Riverside Park. Careful where you walk, I stepped in dog poo here once, and it almost made me throw up.
Duck Creek Bridge: 7.5 miles downstream you come to the Duck Creek access site. A popular drop in zone as it’s pretty close to Billings, and the start of a handful of easy access sites that are all about the same river length.
Blue Creek Bridge/ Riverfront Park: About 7.5 more miles downstream from Duck Creek, you’ll find the Blue Creek access site. Across the River from Riverfront Park, it’s easy to get to, and if you don’t dawdle too much it only takes 3ish hours to float from Duck Creek.
Coulson Park/East Bridge: 6.5 miles later (probably a little less if you opt to take out at Coulson Park) you get to the East Bridge access. From Blue Creek you float around the industrial area of Billings, under the south hills, past Four Dances, and get some pretty sweet views.
Huntley: 11.5 miles from East Bridge, you’ll eventually get to the bridge over the Yellowstone that leads into Huntley. There’s no boat ramp that I know of, so if you have something big you’ll have to keep on floatin’. For kayakers, paddleboarders, and small rafters, you can pull out near 12 Mile Creek.
Gritty Stone: 11.5 or so more miles from Huntley you’ll find the first boat launch in a while. Gritty Stone is a popular area and a great place to put in for the slightly slower Yellowstone that’s moving its way down stream.
Voyager’s Rest: 3.5 miles downstream from Gritty Stone, the shortest section on our little outline here, is Voyager’s Rest. This place is huge, with a giant “shore” that many people will drive their vehicles right to the water’s edge. Easy access and a fun place to have an evening picnic after a float.
Bundy Bridge/Pompey’s Pillar: 4 miles later you’re almost to Pompey’s Pillar. The take out is just before Bundy Bridge where you’ll probably have to drag a raft up to the vehicle as the banks have eroded and changed shape significantly in the past few years.
There are ton of great places to float, and we’ve only touched on a few of the popular areas near Billings. Keep in mind that most of my river mileage is based on some old surveys, and I might be off by a quarter mile here and there. But if you plan for about 2.5 miles per hour while floating, you can get a good idea of how long each section will take you if you’re not keen on rowing or paddling too hard.
Find Your Space in Billings, Montana
We have room for you here in Billings. Whether you’re new to the area and looking for a great place to live, or if you have been here a long time and you’re looking for a community to plug into, there’s room for you here.
What’s your outdoor adventure of choice? Email me at email@example.com and let’s get plugged in to the right group that does awesome things.