Whitewater Rafting Montana

Yellowstone Rafting FAQs

Let's answer your questions about floating the river, Montana horseback riding, and more


What should I wear?

Quick-dry casual clothes and/or swimsuits.

Soft-soled, tie-on shoes or river sandals you don't mind getting wet (no flip flops).

Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses if desired.

When should I show up for my trip?

Please check in for all our Montana whitewater rafting trips 30 minutes early.

For scenic floats, please check in 15 minutes early.

What should I do if I'm running late or can't come on my scheduled day?

PLEASE give us a call if you are expecting a delay or are not able to go on the day of your scheduled trip. We would be happy to reschedule your trip. Phone us at 888-722-6505 or 406-570-8448.

If you’re running late or need directions, please call us as well.

What is your cancellation policy?

We require a 48-hour cancellation notice to fully refund your deposit or price of your trip.

Any cancellation that is not 48 hours before your scheduled departure will be charged the total cost of the trip.

To cancel, you must speak with a staff member directly. Do not leave messages to cancel.

No-shows will be charged the full price of the trip, as we require full payment up front for all trips, though groups of 10 or more may pay a 25% deposit.

How big will the rapids be?

The section of the Yellowstone River that you’ll be rafting on will have Class II and Class III rapids. These are rolling rapids with no waterfalls or drops that are suitable for everybody throughout the season.

However, the rapids are biggest in the early season (May and June) after the snow melts and slow down later in the summer and fall.

Do you offer any group discounts?

We start our group discounts at 10% off for groups of 10 or more. The more people in your group, the larger the discount.

Please give us a call if you have a large group to inquire about discounts.

Youth groups, wedding parties, family reunions, corporate seminars, Boy Scouts — whatever your group, we would be glad to arrange a trip and schedule to meet your special needs.

We're well-equipped to handle large parties and have special permits to customize trips.

Should I expect any fees or gratuities?

We're licensed by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, which charge a small fee per person to operate. These fees are listed as the Land and Water use fees upon checkout.

As of June 1, 2014, Gardiner instituted a 3% resort sales tax applied to all goods and services. These two fees add up to be less than most states' sales tax (which Montana doesn't have).

Gratuities are not included, but are always appreciated for excellent service.

Do you ever cancel trips for weather or other reasons?

We realize our guests may have only one opportunity to raft with us, so it's extremely rare for us to cancel trips. Storms move through quickly, so it could be raining while you check in and hot and sunny for the duration of your raft trip.

We raft rain or shine. Rafting in the rain can be a pleasant surprise. Deep reds, greens, and yellows leap from the landscape with a little moisture and the smell of mountain rain mixed with sage brush fill your senses. We have all the gear to keep you warm...and what else would you do on a wet day?

We reserve the right to cancel trips due to:

Water levels that are too high or too low.

Unseasonably cold temperatures or extreme winds

Insufficient number of people (4 person minimum for rafting, 2 person minimum for kayaking)

What responsibilities do I assume when signing my waiver?

Although we take every precaution to safeguard you and your belongings, river trips, by their nature, involve a certain amount of risk. Yellowstone Raft Co./R & R Rafting, Inc. and their personnel and cooperating agencies assume no responsibility whatsoever for injuries, damages, losses, or delays to person or property.

We recommend the purchase of an inexpensive travel insurance plan, including accident coverage. We require that you acknowledge these risks by reading and signing an Assumption of Risk form prior to departure. All guests are required to wear our lifejackets.

Do I need prior whitewater or floating experience?

No, first-time rafters should feel comfortable on the Yellowstone River no matter the age or technical skill level.

Our professional guides will teach you how to paddle and sit in a raft. And teach you what to do if anything unexpected happens.

Anyone who is physically able will paddle and anyone who’s too young or does not want to paddle can sit in the middle of the raft. You will be given a safety speech before departure and you may ask questions at any time. We want you to feel comfortable at all times.

Are there age limits on the adventures?

For our Montana Whitewater Rafting Adventures, children must 6 years old or weigh 40 pounds and fit the gear properly.

Yellowstone River Scenic Floats are “dry” trips (little to no whitewater) and there’s no paddling required, all ages are welcome!

We have no maximum age restrictions.

At water levels above 14,000 cfs (that can occur during spring runoff and usually lasts a week or two), we reserve the right to restrict children under 12 from traveling through the canyon on our Full Day trips for their safety. Please call our office if you have any concerns about water levels. While we cannot predict the date and flows of the spring melt (every year varies with weather), we can let you know if we think there is a chance of experiencing runoff during your trip.

**Scenic Float parents please note**

Sometimes being on the water for the first time can be overwhelming for a little one. In respect of other guests and to be sure you will enjoy your trip, you will want to be sure your little one is comfortable and confident before going on the water. We want them to have a great first experience on the river!

Do I need special gear?

On Whitewater Trips:

All whitewater rafting gear is included (helmet, lifejacket, booties, splash jacket, and wetsuit, if needed). We recommend that you bring a towel and change of clothes. For Chico Hot Springs guests, our office is within walking distance of your room. Don’t forget sunblock and sunglasses!

On Yellowstone River Scenic Floats:

No gear is required but we recommend bringing a jacket or sweatshirt if it is cooler out. You are welcome to bring something to drink (no glass or alcohol), we recommend wearing sunblock and sunglasses.

Will there be photos of our trip?

Yes, on our Montana Whitewater Rafting Adventures, we have a photographer who takes amazing photos that will be available for viewing and to order after your trip. Guests on Yellowstone River Scenic Floats or taking Horseback Rides will want to bring their own camera… you’ll have all kinds of great photo opportunities!

May I bring my dog?

Unfortunately, no. It can be a traumatic experience for a pet to be taken on a raft and their willingness to leave the raft can create problems for everyone involved. Yellowstone National Park has strict rules about pets and since our trips start in and run along the border of Yellowstone and often encounter birds and other wildlife, pets are not allowed on the trips.

What is the weather like there?

Gardiner is considered the banana belt of Yellowstone due to its moderate weather and warm temperatures. In fact, many of the animals that call Yellowstone their home come down to Gardiner in the winter to eat and live. It can often be up to 20 degrees warmer in our valley than in parts of Yellowstone.

Our population here in Gardiner is small and weather moves through quickly but one of the best forecasters for our area is wunderground.com (although as we write this the high was forecasted at 79 degrees and it's currently 90 degrees).

Below is a list of Average high and lows in Fahrenheit for Gardiner:

May: low 40; high 70

June: low 50; high 80

July: low 55; high 90

August: low 50; high 85

September: low 40; high 75

Remember to pack a wide range of clothing for your trip to Yellowstone and Montana.

In general, we see pleasant hot days and cool nights. So you can go from wearing sandals and shorts during the day to sweatshirts and winter hats at night.

You may not need everything you bring, but you'll be happy you brought if you do need it. You can always pick up a souvenir hoodie or hat while you're here.

Do you offer discounts for children?

Yes. Children's discounted rates apply to kids 12 and under.

Do you have any weight restrictions?

For rafting, no. But every participant must be able to fit into and wear one of our life jackets. We have a variety of sizes to choose from and you are more than welcome to come in and try on one of our life jackets prior to your trip.

The horseback portion of the Paddle and Saddle restricts riders over 275 pounds.

What is your cancellation policy?

We require full payment up front for all of our trips (groups of 10 or more may pay a 25% deposit). Your deposit is fully refundable as long as you cancel at least 48 hours prior to your trip

Why choose Yellowstone Raft Company?

Short Answer: We have the most fun, the best guides, and the longest trips (we literally go the extra mile!) We are river people and are here to share it with you!

Long Answer: As the first company to run trips on the Yellowstone River, our company named many of the rapids and have close ties to the community. We are the only company to be fully permitted by the National Park Service and the National Forest Service. That means all our guides are required to have First Aid, CPR, Swiftwater rescue, and documented river training. We also carry safety kits and rescue equipment that other companies are not required to have or carry.

And we are able to access the river at several points and give you the longest trip available!

How can I make reservations?

Call, book online, or e-mail us anytime for reservations.

What is the river classification?

The Yellowstone River is classified as Class II-III rapids from Yellowstone National Park to Paradise Valley (the first 18 miles of legally navigable whitewater on the Yellowstone River). The rapids are rated on a scale of I-VI, with I being moving water and VI being unrunnable. Class II is waves up to about 3 feet, while Class III can encompass larger waves or obstacles.

Should I bring a camera?

We recommend bringing cameras only if they are waterproof and have a safety strap. Photos are taken of most trips and you will have a chance to view and possibly purchase the photos in our office when you get back from your trip or later online.

Can I bring my phone?

Not recommended. Bring at your own risk, and only if waterproof. We know your phone is a lifeline, navigator, camera, and much more.

But even so, they can stand between you and the best river experience available. Ultimately, the decision is yours but remember there is a chance your phone could get wet or slip out of your hands and sink to the bottom of the river.

Are there places to stay in Gardiner?

Yes. Visit our lodging page for some of our favorite places to stay in the area.

Gardiner is a fully operational entrance town to Yellowstone, complete with large and small hotels, motels, campgrounds, gift shops, restaurants, bars, a post office, bank, and grocery store.

At the north entrance we are within 2 hours of most of the park's major attractions and Gardiner is a wonderful launchpad for your Yellowstone adventures.

We're a small town with a rugged yet refined Montana charm. And we'll be happy to point you in the right direction to get what you need around town.

Should we bring food and water on the raft?

Lunches are provided on the Full-Day trips and the Half Days are short enough that you shouldn't need food while rafting.

If you or one of your family members are diabetic, please bring whatever you need to keep energy and sugar levels appropriate.

There are quite a few restaurants in Gardiner to chose from and many are within walking distance from our office. Our guides may point out their favorite places to eat at the end of the trip. Water bottles are welcome on the trip, but please no glass bottles or cans.

Can I bring a cooler of adult beverages?

We strongly feel that drinks are best enjoyed after rafting and we do not allow drinking on any of our trips. Anyone known to be intoxicated will not be allowed to join the trip and will forfeit their deposit. There are quite a few watering holes in Gardiner, that a visit can be a whole experience in itself, that we can point out after your trip.

What type of boats do you use and how many people fit per boat?

We use state-of-the-art, inflatable, self-bailing 16-foot rafts for most of our trips.

These boats fit 9 paddlers comfortably with room for non paddlers in the center of the raft.

We try to limit our half day boats to 10 passengers, unless otherwise requested.

We do have some larger rafts for large groups requesting to ride together

Full Day and Scenic boats are generally limited to 8 passengers. You can request a private boat on any of our trips for an additional charge.