Floating the river is a Missoula must in the summer. The days are hot and long, so relaxing in a tube on the water is a great way to beat the heat and enjoy the summer sunshine. It can be a bit intimidating to know where to start, but we are here to give you some pro tips for floating the river, from where to go to what you need to know.
If you have questions or need a hand while on the river, look for one of Missoula's River Ambassadors! You can find these helpful locals in brightly colored shirts at main river access points, parking areas on the Clark Fork, Bitterroot, and Blackfoot, and floating on SUP boards and in kayaks. Ambassadors will provide information on parking and shuttle options, guidance on put-ins and take-outs that protect riverbank vegetation, safety tips, river facts, and friendly advice to help people get the most out of their day on the water.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear waterproof shoes with backs, like Chaco's or Teva's.
- Bring a river trash bag. You can get them for free at Orange Street Food Farm and the Sha-Ron put in.
- Tubes can be purchased at Ace hardware or rented through Love Boat Paddle Company
- Glass is strictly prohibited on the river. Plastic and cans only!
- The sun makes a difference: the river gets cold once the sun goes down so plan your float accordingly.
- Montana Adventure Shuttle will take you to your put in sight and you can leave a car parked at your take out site. Another popular option is having one member of your group park at the take out sight and carpool to the put in sight, and then returning to the put in sight after your float.
- If you want to elongate your float, feel free to pull over at at any point and sit on the banks of the river.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife! Eagles and osprey fish the Clark Fork, and deer and other critters can often be seen along the banks.
- Never drive impaired. Missoula has shuttles, Uber, and taxis to get you home and back to your car when the time is right. Be safe!
Most Popular Routes
We recommend floating one of the two most popular routes. You can end your float at Caras Park, or continue on to Silver Park. Floating past Silver Park on the Clark Fork is not advised. For a full rundown of all the ways to access and enjoy the Clark Fork River in Missoula, check out our Downtown River Map.
Sha-Ron River Access to Caras Park: ~2 hours*
Milltown State Park Confluence Area to Caras Park: ~3.5 hours*
*Times vary based on water flow. When the river is high in the spring, floating in a tube is not recommended.
Things You'll Want
- Pump for your floats (can be purchased at Ace)
- Sun protection, like a hat and glasses. The chances of flipping are slim, but you might not want to wear your favorite hat or shades in the event that you lose them in the river!
- If you'd like to listen to music or bring your phone, invest in waterproof speakers and a waterproof phone case.
- Dry bags are pretty crucial for storing extra sunscreen, snacks and your keys.
- Drink lots of water before, during and after your float.
- If you want to bring beverages on the river, make sure you have cans or crowlers.