When you float this section of the Yellowstone, you are following the same route that Captain Clark followed on his return trip shortly before meeting up with Meriwether Lewis at the junction of the Yellowstone and the Missouri. It is on this section where Captain Clark and the Corps of Discovery were dumbstruck by the incredible numbers of wildlife. It is also here that you will view, even today, abundant wildlife.
This section is part of the “prairie” section of the river and braids slowly through the area. It is the islands, sandbars, and backwaters that create an exceptional wildlife habitat.
This is the area where fur trappers came to trap countless beavers, as well as mink, muskrat, and otter. Here you will see whistling swans and sandhill cranes. Other avian species here include eared grebes, white pelicans, doubled breasted cormorant, occasional whooping cranes and numerous wild turkeys.
The river is easy to navigate for beginners except during runoff. Watch for diversion dams at Forsyth and Intake. Both of these have difficult and unmarked portages at river right.
The Tongue River
One argument that may never be settled is how the Tongue got its name. Most agree the Indians named it. Some attribute the name to the prominent buttes at the upper sections of the river, which look somewhat like a tongue. Some say it’s a euphamism for “talking river”. Others think the Indians called it the Tongue because it meanders in every direction.
The put in is right below the Tongue River Dam. For the first 10 miles the river winds through the Tongue River Canyon. This is arguably the most scenic stretch of the river. After leaving the canyon, the river winds through thick stands of cottonwoods. Frequently the paddler will see thick seams of coal on the river banks.
In the cottonwood bottoms you will see whitetail deer, beaver, and ducks. Watch also for the unusually large turtles. If you pull ashore, watch for rattlesnakes on the rocky banks. Avian species include vultures, sandhill cranes, white pelicans, and double-crested cormorants. This is an easy float for beginners, but watch for cables, barbed wire, and occasional diversion dams.