Top 10 Water Rec Ideas for Bozemanites
by Sarah Cairoli | Thursday Jun. 1st, 2017
The dog days of summer are fast approaching, and it can get hot in Bozeman. What’s a sweaty Bozemanite to do? Luckily, we are surrounded by rivers and reservoirs that offer ample opportunity to take a dip. Whether you like to fish, float, or swim, the following list will give you some options to cool off this summer.
The Bikini Hatch
If angling is not your thing, rent an inner tube and float the lower Madison River. Honestly, there is no better way to relax and cool off in the summer. Most floaters put in at the Warm Springs fishing access and float to Black’s Ford. This stretch of river becomes crowded in the summer, so you don’t stand a chance of catching any fish, but you might just catch a date. Definitely plan to catch a ride; drinking and floating is lots of fun, but makes for a dangerous ride home if you haven’t planned ahead. Because this is a popular spot, garbage has a way of building up, so help keep Montana beautiful by packing your trash out.
Better known as Bozeman’s backyard playground, Hyalite Reservoir in Hyalite Canyon is a beautiful place to cool off on a sweltering summer day. Fish from the shore, splash in the shallows, or drop a canoe or kayak into this deep water to get away from it all. Stand-up paddleboards are another great way to cruise the shore of the reservoir. A word of caution: If you have two broken legs, you have no business kayaking here. My husband and I pulled someone in this situation out of Hyalite’s frigid waters just last year, and this poor person was not a happy camper. There is no cell phone reception up there, so be cautious!
Swim the Firehole
Toward the end of Firehole Canyon Drive in Yellowstone National Park (enter the park in West Yellowstone), you will find my favorite swimming hole. Despite the name of the river, the water is not hot, but it’s not exceptionally freezing either. The water is incredibly blue and pushes through a deep canyon, which makes for a unique swimming experience. You can even swim to a cave on the opposite bank! A pleasant beach lines this stretch of river, so it is easy to warm up in the sun. If you prefer warm water, try swimming in the Boiling River instead, accessible from the north entrance of the park in Gardiner.
Wade the Gallatin River
Wade this river; don’t float it. I speak from experience. One of my canoes is still at the bottom of this river somewhere (don’t tell my mom!). It is a wild river, which means that it is shallow and unpredictable, but full of fish. Bring your rod and your favorite flies. The scenery and serenity on this river are unmatched, so even if the fish aren’t biting, your day will be well spent. Some of the best points to access this river are the Cameron Bridge Fishing Access off Cameron Bridge Road and the Axtell Bridge Fishing Access off Axtell Road, just south of Four Corners.
Bozeman Hot Springs
Just south of Four Corners, on Highway 191, you will find a splendid oasis in the midst of Montana’s arid landscape – the Bozeman Hot Springs. This oasis boasts more than ten pools that range from the absolutely frigid to steaming hot and everything in between. Four outdoor pools of varying temperatures allow visitors to soak in the sun, no matter the air temperature. Live bands add to the warm summer evening ambience and food trucks pull in on occasion to satisfy that ravenous hunger that swimming seems to cause. If you love the hot springs experience, consider trying all hot springs in the area, including Chico Hot Springs south of Livingston and Fairmont Hot Springs outside of Anaconda.
Belgrade’s Splash Park
Your little tykes will love to splash around at Belgrade’s Splash Park in Lewis and Clark Park on Main Street. This adventure won’t cost you a dime, and with a playground at the park as well, you can easily spend a day here. The splash park has several different features, ranging from smaller sprinklers to big buckets that dump water on unsuspecting kids. It’s fun for all ages and it is fenced, so tired parents can relax without fearing that their kids will wander off.
Stand-up paddleboards are all the rage and can be rented from several places in town. Every Tuesday night is ladies’ SUP night at the East Gallatin Recreation Area (Bozeman Beach—another close place to swim on a hot summer’s day). The fun starts at 6:30 p.m. on June 6; if you need to rent a board, go to Roundhouse Sports at 6 p.m. to rent boards for a mere $15. Of course, you don’t have to be a lady to SUP, and you don’t have to limit your adventures to Bozeman Beach.
Hike to a Waterfall
If you don’t feel like getting soaked, seek the refreshing spray of a waterfall to cool off. Two of the area’s most beautiful waterfalls are easily accessible. A short, paved hike to Palisade Falls can be found in Hyalite Canyon (follow the signs as you drive past the reservoir). All skill levels can manage the trek to the base of the falls, and the more adventurous members of your hiking party can scramble up to the top. Ousel Falls, near Big Sky, is another favorite. A relatively short walk through a cool, mossy canyon brings you to an impressive waterfall.
Running the Mad Mile
In a boat, that is. Instead of tying on your running shoes, strap on your life vest and raft down the Gallatin River’s roaring rapids in Gallatin Canyon. Unless you are an expert, you should run this stretch of river with a guide. Several different companies take rafts out all summer long to help you have a safe thrill ride. More white water can be found on the Madison River’s Kitchen Sink, but you’ll have to run this stretch on your own as guided trips are rare here.
Float the Yellowstone River
If you don’t have a driftboat, you can rent one or relax and let a guide do the hard work while you reel in the fish. Several fly shops in Bozeman and Livingston offer guide services and more information. Canoes, kayaks, and SUPs are easy to navigate on certain stretches of the river as well. Several different shuttle services can transport your vehicle downriver for you.