Long before the first wagons rolled into Yellowstone National Park, humans, as well as wildlife, used the floodplains and meadows’ surrounding the Madison River to access what is now the western side of the park. Today, just as in the past, the Madison River provides Yellowstone’s visitors with habitat that is rich in diversity.
This is the Gibbon River and that’s the Firehole River. The Madison River begins its journey right here where these two rivers come together. The river flows west for twenty-three miles before exiting Yellowstone, just north of West Yellowstone, Montana.
The river was named by Lewis & Clark, for Secretary of State James Madison. While the explorers were never in Yellowstone, they gave the river its name where the Madison, the Gallatin and the Jefferson Rivers meet to form the Missouri River, near the present day town of Three Forks, Montana.
Anglers from all over consider this, “blue ribbon stream,” a fly-fishing destination. Brown, Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout all can all be found in the Madison River. The invasive New Zealand mudsnail has also been found in the Madison River drainage. Remember to always clean fishing gear and equipment when switching watersheds.
Elk, bison, and moose can be seen grazing near the river in almost any season. In winter, bald eagles and trumpeter swans take advantage of the open waters found along the Madison. For wildlife viewing, dawn and dusk are best.
You can camp right here on the Madison. Picnicking is available at Madison Junction or seven miles downstream where you can eat with a view of the river. If you like hiking, there are miles of trails in this area.
When planning your next visit to Yellowstone, set aside some time to explore the Madison. This important river valley can leave you and your family with some lasting memories.