The Madison River

A world famous trout fishing stream, the Madison is extremely rich in the calcium bicarbonate needed for abundant plant growth, which furnishes hiding places for insects and trout. The river flows westward out of the park through Hebgen and Quake lakes, then turns north, and eventually joins the Gallatin and Jefferson to form the Missouri River near Three Forks, Montana. Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1803-6 named the three rivers but did not follow any of them into what is now park territory, since their mission was to reach the Pacific Ocean by the most direct route possible. The three rivers were named for Thomas Jefferson, the visionary third U.S. president, who conceived and authorized the Lewis and Clark Expedition; James Madison, Jefferson’s secretary of state, who became the fourth U.S. president in 1809; and Albert Gallatin, secretary of the treasury under Jefferson. Along the river was the site of one of the Wylie Camping Company’s lunch stations, beginning in 1909.


William W. Wylie and his successors provided stagecoach passengers and then motorists with low-cost tent camps and lunch stops into the 1940s. aftereffects of the fires. Fifty-five kinds of birds and 24 kinds of mammals use these snags for nesting, perching, and food. Such trees also help prevent soil erosion and provide nutrients to fungi, young trees, and other plants. Wildflowers were especially abundant in the first few years after the fire. And far from spoiling the vista, the fire has opened up views of the Madison River and the distant Gallatin and Madison mountain ranges. Near here was the Riverside mail station and later a soldier station in the earliest years of the park, when small groups of U.S. Cavalry troops were sent on patrol to outlying areas. A steep mail route, called the Madison Plateau Road by Supt. Norris but the Norris Slide by others, climbed the plateau to descend at Fountain Flats. Twenty years after the 1988 fires, tall lodgepoles again cover burned areas.

The Madison River Photo Gallery

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