The Untamed Yellowstone River

As the only undammed river in the lower 48 states, the Yellowstone River flows 692 miles through Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota.
The Yellowstone River above the Upper Falls

The Yellowstone River above the Upper Falls

The Yellowstone River winds its way through Yellowstone National Park, including sections with crashing waterfalls and areas of calm, lazy flow. As the only undammed river in the lower 48 states, it courses 692 miles through Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota.

Where Does the Yellowstone River Begin and End?

Bison crossing the Yellowstone River. Photo NPS

Bison crossing the Yellowstone River. Photo NPS

The Yellowstone River begins on the slopes of Yount Peak in the Absaroka Range of Wyoming. It then flows through Yellowstone National Park, streaming in and out of Yellowstone Lake, and drops 422 feet into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The river runs out of the park in Gardiner, Montana, working its way eastward out of Montana and into North Dakota, where it eventually joins the Missouri River.

The Waterfalls of the Yellowstone River

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. Photo by Gloria Wadzinski

The three most dramatic waterfalls along the Yellowstone River occur in Yellowstone National Park. Once the river leaves Yellowstone Lake, it plunges 109 feet at the Upper Falls and then another 308 feet at the spectacular Lower Falls down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Upon leaving the canyon, the river cascades down another 132 feet at Tower Falls.

History of the Yellowstone River

Although Native Americans had already been using the Yellowstone River, which they knew as the Elk River, for a long time, people of European descent first explored it in 1806. That year, the Lewis and Clark Expedition made its way back from the Pacific Northwest, and Lieutenant William Clark led a group down the Yellowstone River.

Over the years, other famous names like John Colter, Jim Bridger and Jed Smith also explored the waters of the Yellowstone using bull boats, pirogues and hollowed-out logs. Colter partnered with fur trader Manuel Lisa to establish the first trading post on the river in 1807.


Upper Falls in Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

3 Waterfalls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Thanks to the Yellowstone River, tourists to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone have three spectacular sights in the Lower, Upper and Crystal Falls.

Swimming in Yellowstone's Boiling River

Swim in Yellowstone's Boiling River

Find out exactly how to get to Yellowstone's Boiling River and the rules and regulation for this hot spring near the Mammoth area of the park.

Brink of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

View a Waterfall in Yellowstone

Waterfalls in the Yellowstone Park area are abundant. There are close to 300 Yellowstone waterfalls.

The Yellowstone River by Billings, Montana. Photo by Sara Goth [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

2011 Exxon Oil Spill in Yellowstone River Poses Threat

July 1, 2011: Exxon Mobil pipeline burst near the Yellowstone River near Billings, Montana. 20 miles of river upstream were affected by 1,000 barrels of crude oil.

River Otter at Trout Lake in Yellowstone

Yellowstone River Otters

If you’re lucky in Yellowstone National Park, you’ll get a chance to see one of the park’s most playful inhabitants: the Yellowstone river otter.

The Yellowstone River near Glendive, Montana, as seen from Interstate 90. Photo by Tim Evanson [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Pipeline Spills Oil into Yellowstone River Again

January 17, 2015, an oil pipeline breach spilled up to 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River on near Glendive, Montana.

Aspen in Shoshone National Forest

Explore a National Forest near Yellowstone

The greater Yellowstone Park region is home to 27 scenic national forests throughout Wyoming, Idaho and Montana including the Wind River Range.


Backcountry Safety When Crossing Rivers in Yellowstone

It’s important to remember that while Yellowstone National Park is beautiful, it’s also dangerous. Summer flash floods and high water can prove perilous.

Tower Fall in Yellowstone

Tower Fall is Beautiful, Accessible Waterfall in Yellowstone

Located in the northeastern part of Yellowstone near Tower Junction, the fall plunges a stunning 132 feet past pinnacles that surround it.