Alberton Gorge Rafting

Alberton Gorge Rafting

One of Montana’s premier whitewater rafting and kayaking spots is the Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork river west of Missoula. It offers stunning cliff-laden scenery and ample wildlife spotting as well as exciting Class II and Class III rapids. Wildlife can include, bald eagles, deer, elk, otters, osprey, bears and beavers. The geological features are stunning and a geologist will be in science heaven.

The kids and I have rafted this section of the majestic Clark Fork river, often with our family friend Eric. The typical starting point is located near Cyr, a former railroad station and town that has long been abandoned. Now best known for its raft launching infrastructure at Cyr Bridge which becomes quite the zoo during a warm summer weekend. A common exit is Tarkio fishing access (not to be confused with Tarkio East) and that particular float is about 11 miles.

The trip is mostly calm waters with occasional exciting rapids. The most famous and largest rapids have been named for years:  Cliffside 1, Cliffside 2, Triple Bridges, Split Rock, Tumbleweed, Boat Eater and Fang. Tumbleweed is the most recognized with its big hole and spinning exit. On one trip with Jack several years ago, he requested to sit at the very front of the raft when we hit Tumbleweed. Our rower Eric knew what was about to happen and told me to hold on to his life-jacket. After dipping down into the hole, he we almost completely submerged and came out soaking wet – at which point he said sheepishly, “I moving to the back of the raft now”. On one trip we saw stand-up paddleboarders navigate the rapids, a fascinating thing to watch. Professional photographers often line the shore near the most intense rapids capturing great adventure shots.

Fishing can be excellent during the calmer parts of the trip and success can be had with both flys and lures. This trip also passes by Sandy Beach (see 406dad story), often a typical lunch or rest stop, and a spot for some decent shore fishing. During a hot weekend summer day, it can be quite the social scene as well.

Experienced rowers or professional guides are recommended for this trip and life-jackets are necessary for everyone, including adults. And bring a camera, but don’t forget to secure it in a watertight container, because you will get wet!

Information on the Alberton Gorge can be found here. Local rafting companies such as Zoo Town Surfers and Montana River Guides also have descriptions.

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