Every July, hundreds of people take to the water for the annual Yellowstone Boat Float. Rafts, jet boats, kayaks and canoes make the 95 mile journey from Livingston to Laurel. Floaters from all over come to celebrate summer and have a wild time.
The first leg of the trip launches from Livingston. Here, floaters enter the water at around 10am and float for the remainder of the day. Along the way, floaters stop at various points, “Beach Parties”, to share drinks and visit. At the end of the first day float, everyone portages at Big Timber. Night one offers a city-wide party where floaters gather to have a good time. All the bars in town are packed and enthusiasts join together to celebrate the great event that is the Yellowstone Boat Float.
At 10am, we're back on the river. The morning is rough, but an even larger crew usually floats this stretch of river—from Big Timber to Reed Point. Same as day one, people stop several times along the river to have parties with fellow rafters. About two hours before Reed Point is Hot Dog Island. Every year, a group of people raise enough money to feed all the Boat Floaters free hot dogs—a kindness only a hot, tired and tipsy floater could understand.
At the end of day two, all the floaters camp in Reed Point. A shuttle takes people the two mile trek into town where there is a street dance, band, drinks, and more. Reed Point is a very small town with maybe 100 full-time residents. For this town, Boat Float is a to-do. Reed Point fills with hundreds of floaters and visitors for this event. Night two, everyone gets loud and rowdy, and has a great time! Even if you don't like floating the river, visit Reed Point Saturday during the Boat Float Celebration—you won't be disappointed.
Day three's float is saved for the die-hards. After two days of partying, only the hard-core floaters can handle the last leg of the trip from Reed Point to Laurel. Several people end their float at Reed Point, or float the last 15 miles to Columbus; few make it all the way to Laurel, a 35 mile venture from Reed Point.
The Boat Float is such a great event that allows a large group of people to celebrate summer together. Throughout this float, there is a group feeling of community as hundreds of people cheer, laugh and drink down river, chanting “Boat Float, Boat Float!”.
I'm not sure how long this event has been going on, however, I do know it's been around longer than I have! On the Float, I visited with a man wearing a Boat Float hat that read “1984”. Further, this week in my local newspaper was a story from 1973 about the event passing through Columbus. Although it has changed and grown over the 40 some years, Boat Float will continue to be one of Montana's biggest and best events.
Plan your trip: