Montana Stream Access Law

Jan King


C: 406.369.4313 O: 406.375.0166

Email Website

120 South 5th Street
Suite 201

O: 406.375.0166 F: 406.375.0165

The path in the grass dropped quickly to where historic seasons of high water had scoured the vegetation away exposing cottonwood roots, leaving piles of branches and beaver chewed sticks.

A few steps through a mud hole and my boots found the smooth river rocks and fine gravel. Even though a ranching family owned acres of land on both sides of the river, the water was mine to enjoy below the high water mark. I was the only one parked at the bridge this afternoon. Perfect. Stepping into the cool water, I saw a rainbow dart from the shallows. I opened my fly box and selected a #12 orange synthetic body with beautifully tied wings. The familiar clicking of line being stripped off the Battenkill created a new pattern in my head, one of trout seduction and contentment.

Thanks to the law makers in Montana, anglers and rafters have some of the best recreational access in the west. Under the Montana Stream Access Law, the public may use rivers and streams for recreational purposes up to the ordinary high water marks. However, it does not give recreationalists the right to enter private lands bordering those streams or to cross private lands without landowner permission. A complete copy of the rules may be obtained from an office of Fish Wildlife and Parks or visit: Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks.