How Many Different Rivers Flow through Yellowstone National Park?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: August 31, 2022
Image Credit Wannabe Adventurer/Shutterstock.com
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The Yellowstone National Park is a large 3,500-square-mile recreational park above a volcanic hotspot in the western United States. Because of this park’s size, it is not limited to one geographic area. Most of the park is located in the northwest corner of Wyoming, extending to Idaho and Montana. Yellowstone National Park is known for its scenery, wildlife, and unique geothermal features, and it is also recognized by the large water bodies that flow through it. It has rivers, streams, and creeks, which begs the question – how many rivers flow through Yellowstone National Park? 

Rivers That Flow Through Yellowstone National Park

Even though the specific number of rivers flowing through Yellowstone National Park is unknown, over 14 rivers are known to flow through the park. Rivers and lakes cover five percent of the Yellowstone Park land area, with the largest water body flowing through the park being the Yellowstone River at 87,040 acres (352 km2; 136 sq mi). The rivers flowing through Yellowstone National park vary in size. 

Some notably large rivers flowing through the park are; 

  • Bechler River 
  • Lewis River
  • Snake River
  • Gallatin River
  • Firehole River 
  • Gardner River 
  • Gibbon River 
  • Madison River 
  • Lamar River 

Also, some rivers are relatively smaller than those mentioned above, some of which are: 

  • Little Lamar River 
  • Heart River 
  • Falls River, and
  • Little Firehole River.

Although these rivers are unique water bodies, they still unite and flow through each other to other large bodies of water like the Missouri River and the Columbia River. 

List of Major Rivers That Flow Through Yellowstone National Park

Now, let’s learn a little more about the major rivers flowing through the Yellowstone River.

1. Yellowstone River

Yellowstone River
The largest river in Yellowstone National Park is the Yellowstone River.

iStock.com/ChrisB

The Yellowstone River is the largest river in Yellowstone National Park. It is a 692-mile river and a tributary to the Missouri River, just like many other rivers in the Yellowstone National Park area. This river has a huge drainage basin containing waterways, and it is the most excellent and extensive trout fishing river in Montana. 

2. Madison River

Madison River in Yellowstone National Park
The Madison River is the primary tributary of the Missouri River.

iStock.com/julof90

The Madison River is recognized as a significant river here at Yellowstone National Park. It is the primary water tributary of the Missouri River, and Madison River also meets with River Jefferson and River Gallatin. This river has a length of 183 miles and is classified as a high-quality fishery – as it is a very productive river for mountain whitefish, rainbow trout, and brown trout fishing.

3. Gibbon River

Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park
The Gibbon River is 25 miles long.

iStock.com/David Arment

The Gibbon River is a beautiful river that flows east of the great divide in Yellowstone National Park, which earns it a place on our list in this article. The Gibbon River and the Firehole River join to form the Madison River. The total length of the Gibbon River is 25 miles. Also, this river is famous for its trout fishing, being home to a great variety of trout fishes. 

4. Firehole River

Firehole River
One of the major tributaries of the Madison River is the Firehole River.

iStock.com/PapaBear

The Firehole River is one of the two major tributaries of the Madison River, the second being the Gibbon River. These three rivers combine to form a tributary of the Missouri River. The mountain whitefish is the only fish native to the Firehole River; brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout were introduced to the river. 

5. Gallatin River

 Gallatin River
The Gallatin River is a great fishing location for brown and rainbow trout and the mountain white fish.

iStock.com/Matt Anderson

The Gallatin River comes together with two rivers earlier mentioned, Gibbon and Firehole Rivers, to become a tributary to Missouri, with a length of about 120 miles. The Gallatin River is a great fishing location for brown and rainbow trout and the mountain white fish. The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department have designated this river as a blue ribbon trout stream, while the other part has been marked as a red ribbon stream. 

6. Snake River

Snake River
The largest tributary of the Columbia River is the Snake River.

Barry Bjork/Shutterstock.com

The Snake River, 1,078 miles long, is a major river of the Pacific Northwest region in the United States. It remains the most significant river that pours into the Pacific Ocean. Notably, salmon from this ocean always seem to move in thousands into the Snake River in droves. It is the largest tributary of the Columbia River, and aside from the migrated salmon the water accommodates, it is also home to some snails, clams, and native fishes. Birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles rely on the watershed as their habitat.

7. Lewis River

Lewis River
The Lewis River is 95 miles long.

Inger Eriksen/Shutterstock.com

This river flows through the Yellowstone National Park and has its mouth at the Columbia River, a significant tributary. It has a length of 95 miles. The main Lewis River is called the North Fork Lewis River and has been impounded for flood control and hydroelectric power.

8. Lamar River

Lamar River
One of the best places in Yellowstone National Park to view wildlife is the Lamar River.

Real Window Creative/Shutterstock.com

The Lamar River is a 40-mile river tributary to the Yellowstone River and has its whole body located in Yellowstone National park. It doesn’t extend or flow into areas beyond the park. The region along this river is populated with bison, bears, wolves, birds, and pronghorns. This is one of the best places in Yellowstone National Park to view wildlife. 

9. Gardner River

Gardner River
The Gardiner River is completely in Yellowstone National Park.

MarcosMsr/Shutterstock.com

This 25-mile-long river is also known as the Gardiner River and is a tributary of the Yellowstone River. This river, like the Lamar, has its entirety in Yellowstone National Park. However, it has a subalpine basin, a popular site for trout fishing. 

10. Bechler River

The Bechler River is a remotely large river that flows through the southwest section of the park. It has an elevation of 6,306 feet and has its mouth at Fall River. 

How Important are the Rivers Flowing Through Yellowstone National Park? 

These rivers are excellent resources for different states and serve different purposes. Aside from being home to thousands of fishes and wildlife, they also provide room for outdoor recreational activities that every visitor to Yellowstone National Park would love to explore – which makes it one of the most visited parks in the United States. They collectively have several agricultural uses and are also known for the number of geothermal activities resulting from their high energy generation. Due to this, the rivers are home to the world’s most extensive collection of geysers, and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has the world’s most important near-pristine aquatic system. 

Up Next:

Yellowstone National Park: The Complete Guide

The 8 Best Waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park

What State Is Yellowstone National Park In?

Bechler River

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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