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Corrick's River Bend is a 32-acre state Fishing Access Site and fee campground on the Blackfoot River, 6 miles west of Highway 200 on unpaved Ninemile Prairie Road. Multiple primitive campsites nestle in the pines at a lovely, beached bend in the river. Vault toilets, a dirt boat ramp, and potable water round out the amenities.
Corrick's River Bend is a 6-mile float from the Roundup FAS upstream, and a 4-mile float downstream to Whitaker Bridge, or an 11-mile float all the way down to Johnsrud Park. Expect plenty of Class I and II whitewater, especially at higher flows. And since most of the river corridor in this stretch is privately held and undeveloped, expect stunning scenery.
Camping costs $12/night without a Montana fishing license, and $7 with one, with a 7-day stay limit either way. Keep an eye out for boreal toads while you're there—there've been confirmed sightings of western Montana's only toad, a state species of concern, at the campground.
Johnsrud Park is an 18-acre state fishing access site (FAS) on river-left of the Blackfoot River 13 miles above its confluence with the Clark Fork in Bonner, east of Missoula. Amenities include drinking water; vault toilets; sheltered picnic facilities; horseshoe, volleyball, and baseball fields; parking; and a concrete boat ramp.
Johnsrud consists of two distinct but connected areas. The downstream portion is for picnicking and sports, and the upstream portion, where the boat ramp is, is where seemingly all of Missoula congregates on hot summer days, loading and unloading rafts and kayaks and canoes, drinking too much, and stirring up dust with the near-constant parade of trailer-toting pickups.
If the Blackfoot is Missoula's most popular summer-rec river, Johnsrud is Missoula's most popular access to the Blackfoot. The Whittaker Bridge launch is 7 miles upstream, past Thibodeau Rapid and the rock garden of Sheep Flats, making a float down to Johnsrud ideal for kayakers, canoeists and tubers. More sedate floaters can put-in at Johnsrud and drift 5 miles to the Angevine access, 6 miles to Wisherd Bridge, 9 miles to Marco Flats, or 11 miles to Weigh Station.
The appeal of so many options can turn Johnsrud into a summertime madhouse, and in recent years Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has considered ways to relief pressure on the site, and on the Blackfoot generally. For now the river remains permit-free and open to all comers, though please note that glass containers and bottles are prohibited. If you're going to drink on the river—just about everyone does—use aluminum cans or Nalgenes. And even if you're conscientious about packing your empties out, consider dedicating one of your sparkling summer days to the annual Blackfoot River Cleanup, held in late July each year. A river that gets used this hard can use a little help to keep it in the shape that draws so many admirers in the first place.
And not to scold, but one last word of advise: the turnoff from Highway 200 onto Johnsrud Park Road is notoriously hairy in the high-summer months, with anxious revelers headed up from Missoula and sunstroked river-partyers headed back toward town. There have been fatalities, and there have been accidents that escaped fatality by bald luck. Whether you're coming or going, be careful out there.
Roundup Fishing Access Site is on river-right of the Blackfoot River on the downstream side of the Highway 200 bridge at Ninemile Prairie Road. The site is just downstream of Roundup Rapid, one of the Blackfoot's biggest, and features a vault toilet and a slide launch for rafts.
Day-boaters usually put in at Russell Gates (12 miles upstream) or Sperry Grade (10 miles upstream) to take out at Roundup, or put in at Roundup and float 6 miles to Corrick's River Bend FAS (which has nice camping) or 10 miles to the Whitaker Bridge access. All these stretches offer abundant Class II whitewater, and at high flows the narrow river is a nonstop ride.
Note that the dirt Ninemile Prairie Road cutting off of Highway 200 at Roundup continues along the river to Whitaker Bridge, where it becomes Johnsrud Park Road until its re-intersection with Highway 200 at Johnsrud Park.
Roundup is 29 miles upstream of the Blackfoot's mouth in Bonner, and 25.5 miles by road from Bonner on Highway 200.
Whitaker Bridge, by which Johnsrud Park Road crosses the Blackfoot River and continues upstream as Ninemile Prairie Road, is a popular day-use launch for Blackfoot floating parties. Amenities include a parking lot, vault toilet, and concrete boat ramp suitable for nonmotorized craft up to and including rafts and driftboats.
From Whitaker Bridge downstream to Johnsrud Park is a 7-mile float encompassing some of the lower Blackfoot's most accessible Class II whitewater, including Thibodeau Rapid and Sheep Flats. Alternately, river-runners can put in at the Roundup Fishing Access Site (10 miles upstream) or Corrick's River Bend Fishing Access Site (4 miles upstream), and use Whitaker Bridge as a take-out.
© 2015 Missoula News
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