Gallatin River, Montana: Adventures Where the River Runs Through It
Updated: Nov 7, 2021
Summary: Montana Whitewater, located in the Gallatin Gateway, offers a super fun "Zip & Dip," day of Ziplining and Whitewater rafting. Too early in the season for the all-day rafting trip, we decided to try this mixed adrenaline day. The guides at Montana Whitewater are super fun and quite obviously knowledgeable. We felt safe and well-cared for throughout our experience, including taking on first Category IV rapids! We highly recommend this company if you're looking for an adventure while staying in the Bozeman/Gallatin area.
About the Gallatin Gateway. Located in between Bozeman and Big Sky, the Gallatin Gateway is the home of several guest "dude" ranches, beautiful forested hikes, and, of course, the famous Gallatin River where the 90's Brad Pitt film, The River Runs Through It, was filmed. Our AirBnb was located just 20 minutes outside of Bozeman, in the Gateway Gateway. This affordable spot had everything we needed at a fraction of the cost of staying in Bozeman.
What Gear To Bring. We visited Gallatin in June when the water temperature was still pretty chilly. It was fine while in the raft because of the wetsuits and booties provided, but afterwards we were like frozen popsicles as we changed into our dry clothes. If we did it again, we would bring several more layers to warm us after changing out of the wetsuits. Other items to bring: bathing suit, close-toed shoes for ziplining, sunblock, and a sack lunch to eat on-site between ziplining and rafting.
Getting to Montana Whitewater. From Bozeman, Montana Whitewater is just 30 minutes South on Highway 191. Parking is available on site, as well as plenty of restrooms. Montana Whitewater sells a limited variety of drinks and snacks, along with souvenirs and some essential equipment you may have neglected to bring.
First, We Zipped. The hardest part of ziplining is getting to the top of whatever you zipline off of, and the set up here was no different. For those afraid of heights, like this writer, it takes a bit of a herculean effort just to get to the launching point but if you can get there, it is such a fun adrenaline rush.
At Montana Whitewater's set up, there are several platforms to zipline to, with the first one accessible by climbing a combination of ladders and rope/platforms. One additional platform requires climbing across another challenging rope bridge. For the teens, it was not a bother at all. For those of us that are scared of heights, it can be an adrenaline rush on its own just to get to the platform.
The ziplines here are relatively short as compared to some others we have experienced in Kauai and Costa Rica. That being said, the activity was fun and definitely worth it.
Then, We Dipped. For rafting, the group was divided into those that wanted the more challenging rapids, and those that felt better with a more chill experience. Having rafted a couple times before, we decided to challenge ourselves to some Category IV rapids. Our guides loaded us into two school buses and then we were driven upstream to our drop-off point.
Upon arrival, we helped unload the boats and were sorted into groups of 6. Our family of 4 stayed with two fun ladies we met in the morning at Ziplining. Here, we received a safety lesson from the main coordinator and then a second one from our boat's rafting guide. This guy (sadly, we have forgotten his name), was super strict, often yelling harshly at us to do our job working our paddles. Ordinarily, one may think, "what's up with guy?" but in reality, he got us to our destination safe and sound. These rapids were super fun but they are no joke. Do what your guide says. In all fairness, our guide was also very supportive and entertaining when he was not keeping us from drowning in June's high-waters.
On the quiet parts of the rafting, we had an opportunity to take in the beautiful landscape and even pass through the filming location from The River Runs Through It.
You May Get Dumped: In the rapids, none of us fell out of the boat. We understand it does often happen so be prepared for that possibility. Actually, it did happen for Brian (the Dad here), but where you would think. He managed to get dumped literally on the first little bump on the river. In his defense, we were just getting moving and he did not expect to already need to be ready to balance. It still makes us laugh.
Photos for Purchase. It is virtually impossible to get good photos ziplining and it's absolutely impossible to get them while rafting. For this reason, we did what we rarely do: purchased a photo package. There were a ton of quality photos included and actually, for once, it was nice to have someone take photos for us. We recommend incurring this expense.
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