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Jefferson River in Montana

Trip Overview

This is a description of the Jefferson River from Silver Star to Parson's Bridge. Another possible option in this location is from Twin Bridges to Silver Star.

The put in point is a fishing access site at the little community of Silver Star. At Silver Star is a store called "Granny's Store". Canoes can be rented here and a shuttle arranged. The store itself is interesting with a number of outdoor related books, including Gidmark's book on making birch bark canoes, and Moore's book Canoecraft, as well as books on edible plants and aboriginal technology.

The river from Silver Star to Parson's bridge is fairly swiftly flowing, and of a pool and riffle structure. The float itself is incredibly beautiful. The Tobacco Root Mountains loft over the river to the south and the Highwood Mountains appear to the west. The float is away from any roads and generally signs of habitation are rare. This river is steeped in history, as Lewis and Clark worked upstream on it on their way to the Pacific, and it was near here that Sacagawea and the party met the Shoshone tribe, the chief of whom was her brother. One gets the feeling on this float that the scenery from the river has probably not changed a lot in the past 200 years. For details of the Corps of Discovery's trip, one of the great epic adventures in American history, take a few hours and see Ken Burn's documentary. It will increase your appreciation of this river and indeed the great country you are traveling through.

As you approach Parson's bridge, keep to the left of the river. There is a diversion dam just after the bridge and takeout point that it would not be wise to run over. The takeout is really not visible until you are on it, and is on the far side of the bridge (downstream side, river left). This diversion dam is the only hazard on the river.

Efforts are underway to try to establish fixed public campsites on the river so that a multi-day float trip down the river can be accomplished. The Jefferson is 83 miles long. For more info on this see the website below.

I love solitude and this river is very underutilized. During this float you will likely see deer, herons, waterfowl, and raptors including bald eagles, but probably not too many people. Gamefish include brown and rainbow trout and mountain whitefish. Be warned that dewatering can occur in the summer. Fall trips are spectacular as the mountain peaks are cloaked in snow and the cottonwoods burst into flaming gold.


Granny's store in Silver Star has shuttle and canoe rental facilities and other common items. Gas available in Whitehall and Twin Bridges.


Sorry, I'm not sure of the cost of a shuttle. No permits required.


From Butte or Bozeman take I-90 to Whitehall and Hwy 55 south to Silver Star.


See above. If going from Twin Bridges to Silver Star there is a put-in site in town on the Beaverhead River, which becomes the Jefferson after it joins the Big Hole.

Contact: - this website has lots of info on the Jefferson and is spearheading the effort to get an established canoe trail here.


Paddling Montana by Hank and Carol Fischer
Undaunted Courage by Steven Ambrose for a gripping history of the Lewis and Clark expedition
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip