What are the Best Water Activities and Adventures in Yellowstone National Park?
Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Yellowstone National Park is a land of wonder with a vast diversity of natural features, including the abundance of water – in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. If it is water adventures you want, Yellowstone has a variety from which to choose, each offering a unique experience.
The water features of Yellowstone offer everything from boating, touring, kayaking, fishing, and even relaxing in select streams where hot springs flow into the river to create a sort of high-country wilderness jacuzzi.
Let’s explore each of these different venues so you can choose which adventures are right for you.
Boating, Kayaking & Canoeing on Yellowstone Lake
To simply get out on the largest high elevation lake (covering 136 square miles set at an elevation 7,733 feet/2357 m) in North America is an experience worth taking. Bridge Bay Marina is the primary location for scenic lake cruises, guided fishing trips, and various boat rentals. To make reservations and learn the details of all watercraft excursions call 307-344-7311.
The Lake Queen: Between mid-June to mid-August enjoy a one-hour scenic and informative tour of Yellowstone Lake, Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Stevenson Island, and the unique history surrounding the area and the historical characters who made the history with their own adventures of an era gone by. Elk and bison can often be seen on the shore, and eagles, osprey and other waterfowl are certain to be spotted on your cruise. Several daily departures are offered in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
o Rates are $18.50 per adult, and $10.75 per child (age 3-11). Children under 3 are free but still require a ticket. (2019 season)
Boat Rentals or Bringing Your Own Boat: Motorboats and rowboats can be rented at Bridge Bay Marina on a first come – first serve basis. Several docking stations are available for those who bring their own boat. o Boats can be rented from early to mid-June through early to mid-September at a rate of $59/hour (2019 season)
o Length of time boats can be rented: One to eight hours
o Life jackets are required and provided with rental
o Government issued ID or Passport required for all boat rentals
o No pets are allowed and no beaching of craft along the shores is allowed
Guided Fishing Trips: From Bridge Bay Marina you can set sail on a charter guide boat for wonderful experience led by experienced captains familiar with the area and in touch with there the fish are biting.
o Boat capacity 1 to 6 people, regardless of age. Up to 3 people may fish at one time
o Life jackets for each person
Kayaking & Canoeing: Enjoy exploring Yellowstone Lake or most of Yellowstone’s lakes in kayaks and canoes and enjoy the tranquility of paddling through the water while enjoying the scenic views along the shoreline and the distant mountains that backdrop most of the park’s lakes.
o Grant Village is where you can launch your kayak for an enjoyable morning of paddling along the lake’s west coast and West Thumb Geyser Basin. Such an experience provides a unique perspective of many geothermal features that exist there.
o Shoshone Lake in the backcountry of Yellowstone is accessible only by kayak or canoe by paddling up the Lewis River that runs between Shoshone Lake and Lewis Lake. This is Yellowstone’s second largest lake and a real backcountry experience which is often done in conjunction with overnight camping.
o Lewis Lake has a boat dock and canoes and kayaks are entered here and often seen paddling around close to the shore. As mentioned above, adventurers heading to Shoshone Lake must first enter Lewis Lake and paddle to the Lewis River in route to Shoshone Lake.
Note: All watercraft of any kind must have a permit and be inspected for aquatic invasive species by park staff. Boat permits can be obtained at South Entrance, Bridge Bay Ranger Station or Grant Village Backcountry Office. If you plan to boat when in the park visit www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/boating.htm for boating regulations.
Fly Fishing in Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park is located within what is known as the Golden Triangle, a designated region renowned as one of the premier fly fishing locations in the United States. The “triangle” reference is related to the region as its approximate boundaries form an equilateral triangle having an apex at Glacier National Park and encompassing southeast Idaho and western Montana.
Each road section within Yellowstone National Park has rivers, streams, or lakes that offer excellent trout fishing in a wilderness setting surrounded by picturesque scenery. For detailed information on fishing the waters in each road section in the park, select the links below for the flies to use and the places to fish.
Hot Springs for Swimming, Soaking and Relaxing in the Park
There are a few hot spring areas in the Park where you can legally swim and enjoy the relaxing experience of these wilderness hot pools. They are:
Boiling River Swimming Area: A .5-mile walk from the parking lot brings you to the location known as Boiling River, and the spot where Boiling Hot Springs spills into the Gardner River to provide an enjoyable mix of river water and hot springs water and the chance to relax and enjoy time well spent. This area opens sometime in the summer after the run off season and will remain open autumn through winter.
Firehole Swimming Area: Located adjacent to the Firehole Canyon Drive, this location is a favorite among park visitors seeking a soak and swim in what appears to be just another spot along the Firehole River. However, the hydrothermal hot springs boil up from the river’s floor and along its banks. This area does not open for swimming until sometime in the summer when the water levels fall below what is considered safe conditions and closes later in the summer season.