This past weekend my family and I floated the Smith River. For those of you who don’t know why this is such a big deal, I will tell you. Not just anyone can float this river anytime they want. You have to apply for a special permit to float the Smith. Not many permits are given out. People from all over the US and the world come to Montana to float this river.

I have floated the Clark Fork River many times and the Blackfoot River once or twice, but I have to say that they don’t even compare with the Smith River. The scenery is amazing. For almost the entire float, at least one side of the river is steep canyon walls or cliffs. There are amazing rock formations that I’ve never seen anywhere else in Montana.

I’ve never been one who thought it was a remotely good idea to go into a cave, considering the bats, bears and other sketchy creatures that reside in them. However, the cliffs along the river were so littered with caves that I started to wonder what could possibly be in all those caves. Did an old prospector hide his gold in one of those caves? All my boys could think about was The Goonies.

The best part of our Smith River float was my new boat. My wonderful husband bought me my very own raft and oars and made me a frame for it. I thought he was so sweet, until I realized that he had an ulterior motive in doing this. You see, since I had my own boat, I got to row it for all 59 miles of river while he fished. He’s a clever one, but I still think I got the better end of the deal.

The only thing I would change about our trip was the 24 hour period of nonstop rain. That day was a bit miserable, but we all survived. Apparently that river has its own weather system, thanks to it being smack dab in the middle of two mountain ranges.

If you’re looking for a great Montana river float with amazing views then I would recommend the Smith River. It is a unique experience that you just can’t get from floating our local rivers.

Joy Larson is a mother of four boys, graduate of the University of Montana, animal lover and writer.