The Yellowstone - Carbella to 9th Street Map Size 17" x 72"
Paradise Valley The first put in the valley is Crystal Cross (R), a primitive hand launch, just a stone throw from Carbella Bridge and right on the glassy washout of Yankee Jim. The launch here is a bit bony and is mainly used for weekend rafters coming out of the canyon and for drowning worms. From here you have a somewhat fast piece of water with pocket shots at numerous fish (that is, of course if the guy on the sticks is doing his job) and then a smooth runout that is fueled by water and nutrients coming in from Rock Creek (L). Just past Rock Creek is the B.L.M Carbella campground and concrete launch ramp (R) where the majority of the drift boats put in and the commercial rafts take out. This is where the valley really starts to open up. Dome Mountain and various basalt flows extend river right all the way to Emigrant Creek, while rhyolitic dykes & sills dominate the river left terrain until you reach Big Creek. Elk, deer, antelope slowly give way to people and cows as the river transitions into a rural countryside setting and the cutthroat start to thin out as they gradually succumb to the pressures of lower water quality and larger browns & rainbows. Point of Rocks (L) is your next chance to get in and out although this launch changes dramatically with water levels and it is best to scout it before attempting a take out here. A basalt laccolith is your close eastern horizon on this stretch (it was once used as a buffalo jump back when that was cool). The river here is classic Yellowstone: cobble to runout to slack, over and over again, culminating at a bit of a pinch at the Big Creek rest area. Below the rest area the river flattens out until Dry Creek comes in (L). Mile 26 (L) is another primitive launch that is basically just a notch in the steep bank and an easy one to miss if you don’t know what you are looking for. The river from here becomes moderately braided with deep runs following fast drops. There are numerous potential hazards on this stretch but one of the most infamous is the Park Branch Canal. Some say that it is not well marked, but others contend that the 8’x4’ sign at the mouth that says something to the affect of “Don’t Go Down Here” is sufficient warning. Continuing on to Emigrant the river is classic trout habitat with streams and springs entering from both sides, undercut banks and a wide range of native wildlife. At about Grey Owl (L) the river becomes the most serene single channel water on the whole Valley stretch - a dry fly fisherman’s dream that continues through Mill Creek (R), (a gnarly 4WD launch), to Loch Laven (R) and on to Mallard’s Rest (L). Downstream from Mallard’s to Pine Creek is another area where numerous minor springs and streams come into the river, creating natural thermoclines and a veritable smorgasbord of aquatic feed for trout. From Pine Creek (L) on, the water is powerful, fast, and filled with snags & rock hazards, so much so that it can make even the seasoned guide sometimes wish that they had floated a different stretch. Of course the volatility of this water also makes for some choice fish habitat and so it remains a popular float. From Mile 54 down to 57.5 the river is flanked by the world famous DePuy, Armstong and Nelson Spring Creeks, offering not only year-round fishing (for a fee) but also a reserve for large trout that move in and out of the river. The Carter's (R) Bridge launch marks the official end of the Paradise Valley but not to the fishing. From here to 9th Street the river enters the most urban stretch of the whole upper Yellowstone float. Houses and roads begin to line the river banks along with people, dogs and everything else that is the “Town Stretch”. Curiously the turmoil of the ‘big city’ has relatively little affect on the actual fishing and this remains as productive as any of other water in the valley stretch. The river structure here can change dramatically with seasonal flood events making the first 'after-runoff' float an always interesting experience. If you are planning to take out at 9th Street (L) please note that you have to make that decision at the top of 9th Street Island (Mile 61.5). This major channel split is not marked and if you end up river right you will not be able to take out at 9th. When the river gets low this decision is especially important, as you are (occasionally) not able to float a boat all the way down the right channel. If you make this mistake and manage to get the boat through, your next spot to take out is Mayors Landing. Regardless of where you float, wade or just relax on the Yellowstone you are sure to get a taste of what is some of the best water in Montana. Please respect this river- and I don’t just mean in “cherish the majesty and magic of nature” or "take only pictures, leave only footprints” sort of way (which you should be doing no matter where you recreate) but in way where you are really thinking about what you are doing when you are floating, wading, or playing beside it... respect it and it will treat you right, but if you get cocky or if you let your guard down, the Yellowstone has a special, sometimes fatal way of reminding you who is really in charge.