This fall, canoe the Jefferson.
It’s odd that the Corps of Discovery named the Jefferson for their boss, then president Thomas Jefferson. To many around these parts, the river is the third-most impressive fork of the Missouri, and we wouldn’t fault the third commander in chief for taking offense. Maybe, just maybe, Lewis and Clark could see the future and knew how awesome the waterway would be come autumn.
Overlooked all summer, the Jefferson comes alive right around the first week of October. Cottonwoods exploee into color and cooling temps result in active fish. The almost-always-uncrowded river sees even less traffic, and there are activities galore just beyond the water’s edge. All this and more is why we wait to visit—and why it’s on our Fall Hit List.
Who: Water-folk who like their floats mellow and devoid of human contact, and anglers looking for big spawning browns. The Jefferson doesn’t have the fish density of the Madison, but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in heft.
What: Fishing, floating, wildlife watching, and mountain biking—that’s right, mountain biking. While you could spend your entire weekend casting and coasting, a quick side trip to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park will have you ripping rowdy singletrack. If two wheels aren’t your thing, don some boots or trail runners. Mini-Moab—as the caverns are affectionately known—has dry trail well after the mountains around Bozeman get soggy.
When: While there is no time like the present, the Jefferson remains floatable until the temps really plummet and ice jams threaten progress. To be safe, plan your trip for sometime in October.
Where: A classic half-day float is Sappington Bridge to Williams Bridge, but numerous other access points exist, primarily around Whitehall and Cardwell. You can also head upstream toward Twin Bridges, or put in downstream at Three Forks. For an overnight, check out the Jefferson River Canoe Trail website.
Why: The waterways around Bozeman tell the history of westward expansion. Take a trip back in time and experience the land the way 19th-century adventurers did, before it’s too late.
And because canoeing the Jeff is on our Fall Hit List. It’s a Bozeman rite of passage and a great way to spend one more day on the water before winter.