Five great ways to enjoy local waters

By Katie Alvin Explore Big Sky Contributor

It’s hard to keep away from water in Big Sky. There’s a stream, pond, or river within a short drive – or even walk – from most every home or lodge in town. We also have some of the most pristine aquatic resources in the U.S. Don’t take it for granted! Summer is the time to take advantage of our wonderful local waters.
Safety First

While many nearby small streams and ponds are accessible and appear harmless, every water body can be risky. Even in midsummer streams are running fast and obstacles can be hard to see through whitewater. Only enter flowing water if you feel sure-footed and confident. Always vigilantly supervise children around water and don’t underestimate the power of a small stream. Be aware of the “thalweg” or the deepest flowing part of the stream –often, shallow creek edges drop off into this fast deep zone, so keep the kiddos close.
Explore the shore

Take a picnic to the river’s edge and spend some time looking for berries, watching rafters and fishermen, listening to birds, and soaking up the sun. Try beachcombing Montana style: Look for petrified wood, heart-shaped rocks, driftwood, or other interesting artifacts. Turn over rocks to see aquatic insects and their homemade casings. Slowing down and paying attention is a fantastic way to connect to the river and appreciate its beauty.
Make Montana mud castles

Kids of all ages, and even adults love to get dirty and wet. The banks of a river, stream or pond provide hours of fun for water and mud play. Dig channels and pits to see how water fills up and moves through them; make water parks for sticks and leaves; build dams and see how long it takes before they break; make a sand castle Montana-style by using mud, pebbles, sticks, flowers and other natural objects; closer to the water, pile rocks into cairns or walls and make pools. Enjoy experimenting with this ever-changing water world.
Try fishing for fun

Fly fishing doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With many companies offering low-cost introductory outfits, it’s easy to try out the sport without making a huge investment. Rent boots and waders, or “wet wade” in river sandals and quick-dry pants. The Gallatin River is the perfect place to gain experience with basic techniques, just be sure you stop into a local shop to get a quick overview from folks that fish daily. Half the fun of fishing is telling stories later, so grab your kids or friends and go create some memories.
Pick up a paddle

While paddling in whitewater without a guide might be daunting for the average person – and downright dangerous for a beginner – there are plenty of ways to have fun in a watercraft without much risk. To get an introduction to a variety of paddle sports, head up to Lake Levinsky at Big Sky Resort to try stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, canoeing or paddle boating. If you’d like to float the Gallatin, check with one of the local rafting shops to rent gear and get guidance on where to go. Better yet, take it a little easier and dip your paddle on a guided float.

Don’t miss out on the opportunities to experience and appreciate Montana’s pristine resources. Plan a trip to show some love for the water and get outside!

Katie Alvin has lived in Big Sky for more than 20 years and owns East Slope Outdoors with her husband Dave. With degrees in Environmental Studies and Soil Science, she has been involved with environmental and outdoor education for 25 years.