Cool Off With Excitement on the Stillwater River
West of Billings there is a river that feeds into the Yellowstone. Originating in the Beartooths south of Nye the Stillwater River flows down through the valleys, past Absarokee, and dumps into the Yellowstone River near Columbus. During its journey it provides a home to all sorts of wildlife, including some incredible trout. Along the way the river is nothing like its name. It tumbles through miles of rapids, only leveling out and becoming rather “still” just before entering the Yellowstone. These rapids provide the perfect setting for a rafting trip.
Early in the summer is the best time to go. June and July the river water is rising from the melting snow in the mountains, giving ample water flow to ride over the boulders. With higher water the rapids are much more exciting, and the chance of getting injured by hitting a rock on the bottom is lessened. However if the water level gets too high (like we saw last year), it is dangerous, so use your best judgment.
The most fun way to experience the Stillwater is to get a group of people together. The more the merrier. For those who do not have access to a raft, there are many companies that provide this service. A large group can often get excellent group rates, and the cost is manageable for everyone. The rapids are exciting, but nothing too extreme, and spending the day together can be a great team building exercise.
Floating the river, from Absarokee to Columbus will take several hours. When enlisting the services of a guide group, like Absoraka River Adventures or Beartooth Whitewater shuttles are often provided. The guides know the river, they know the best spots to hit the rapids, and they know just where to stop and let everyone spend some time jumping off the low cliffs into the deep pools of the river.
Well in advance, make sure to contact the rafting company you want to use. While you can always try to float down the river wearing just some water wings and a Speedo, it is usually best to go with someone experienced and who has the proper equipment. Get your group together, and make your reservations, then plan to wear plenty of sunscreen. And even though you will be surrounded by water, drink plenty before you go. Most of the rafting guides are based in Absarokee (map is here), but some can be found in Billings or Red Lodge. Since Absarokee doesn’t even have a stoplight, I think you should be able to find someone easily.
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