Boating, Fishing, Camping
Sanitation & Water:
Drinking Water, Toilet
Weapons Discharge Prohibited:
Open to archery and waterfowl hunting only.
Despite pressures from developers, ranchers and farmers, the Bitterroot, a Class 1 river, remains a haven for fly fishers. Flowing through the scenic Bitterroot Valley, the river is ... moreoften referred to as the “banana belt” of Montana, famous for its year round mild climate. Although the river tends to flow through populated areas and is located within the fastest growing area of the state, it’s still possible to see a wide array of animals along its banks including waterfowl, osprey, bald eagles, heron, white deer and mule deer. Wildlife is especially abundant within the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, located between Stevensville and Florence.
Like other rivers in Montana, this too has an interesting history. Bitterroot Valley was the ancestral home of the Salish Indians, more commonly known as the Flatheads. The area acquired its name from a plant (later to become Montana’s state flower) that the Salish cultivated and counted on as a major source of food. Father DeSmet, a Jesuit priest, established St. Mary’s Mission here in 1841, and a few years later sold it to John Owen. Owen opened a trading post that over time became Montana’s first permanent, European based settlement, eventually growing into the town of Stevensville. Throughout the remainder of the 19th century, trees were harvested and the river was used to carry logs downstream to Missoula as well as used to support a wide array of agricultural products. Now, aside from sub-divisions, alfalfa is nearly the riverside’s exclusive crop.
Famous for its prodigious insect hatches, the Bitterroot teems with trout. The river carries about 1000 trout per mile, twice that of most similar size rivers, including rainbows, browns and a healthy population of native west-slope, cutthroat trout. This insect rich environment is attributed to the Sapphire Range’s calcium rich, feeder streams that join the Bitterroot and give rise to a large menu of stoneflies, mayflies and caddis. For anyone that might be interested, the river also supports northern pike and largemouth bass in some of its slower moving, backwater currents. A mere 75 miles long, the river passes through several towns including Darby, Hamilton, Corvallis, Victor, Stevensville, Florence, Lolo, ending at Missoula where it combines with the Clark Fork River.
On the Water Fishing Reports
Started Here Reports
Because of the significant change in weather, the fishing has been slow recently. Streamers, midges, tiny baetis, and lots and lots of nymphs are hitting.