The Lower Gardner River not far
from its confluence with the
Yellowstone River.
Fly Fishing The Gardner River:
............................            .Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park
The Upper Gardner River just
above Gardner Canyon.
Gallatin Range:
The Gardner River starts from small
streams that flow from the Gallatin
Range seen in the background.
Lower Sheepeater Canyon: This
section of the Gardner can be
accessed fairly easy.
Sheepeater Cliff which lies
parallel with the Gardner River.
The Gardner River can become
quite turbulent where it narrows
and bends.
The Gardner River is located in the Northwestern portion of Yellowstone National
Park. It begins at an elevation of about 10,000 feet from several small streams on
the Gallatin Range that merge together. The small river flows for several miles
before it reaches the bridge at the Mammoth-Norris Road located about 7 miles
south of Mammoth. Most of the fish above this point are smaller size brook trout.

Sheepeater Canyon:
East of the Mammoth-Norris Road the Gardner flows into the Sheepeater Canyon.
The head of the canyon lies just a short distance of a mile or so downstream of the
bridge. Sheepeater Canyon is a 6-mile long deep canyon stretch with a 100-foot
high waterfall, Ospray Falls, which is located near the center of the canyon. Above
the falls the banks of the stream are very steep and the fish are all brook trout.
Below Ospray Falls, the trout are mostly rainbows that average about 10 to 12
inches and sometimes better. There are also some brook trout below the falls.
Farther down the Gardner River towards the Mammoth-Tower Road, the fish are a
mixture of rainbows and brown trout.

Gardner Canyon:
The lower Gardner River, below the high bridge about a mile and a half east of
Mammoth on the Mammoth-Tower Road, flows for 5 miles before it reaches the
Yellowstone River. The fish in this section of the river are a combination of
rainbows, browns, cutthroats, cuttbows, brook trout and whitefish. These fish
average 8 to 14 inches in length. During the fall from about the middle of
September until the end of the season, large brown trout move out of the
Yellowstone River up into the Gardner River to spawn. They can be caught as far up
as the base of Ospray Falls during this spawning migration. The migrating brown
trout in the Gardner are much larger than the resident brown trout are. Browns can
be taken up to 20 inches and even larger.

Gardner Canyon Access:
You can reach the upper end of this section of the river at the high bridge and hike
either upstream or downstream. Another access to this area is at the Lava Creek
Trailhead. The trail located across from the Mammoth Campground, leads to a
footbridge on the Gardner River. From there you can fish upstream along the trail.
There is also an access located below the Mammoth Housing area that will take
you to the stream.
The 45th Parallel Bridge, located about 2 and a half miles from the North Entrance
on the North Entrance Road, provides the next downstream access to the river.
There is a parking area and a trail that leads upstream to Boiling Springs that
follows along the river. Downstream of the bridge is an area of meadows and
sagebrush but the river is certainly not what you would call a meadow stream.
From the 45th Parallel Bridge to the entrance to the park, the river is made up of
high gradient plunges, runs and riffles as the stream falls down the mountain to
the Yellowstone River rather fast. The road follows the stream closely and there are
several places anglers can pull off the road to fish the river. The stream could best
be described as fast pocket water.

Tributaries:
The Gardner River has a large number of tributary streams from its headwaters to
its confluence with the Yellowstone River.

Fawn Creek:
The Gardner is joined by Fawn Creek, its first major tributary stream, before it
enters the Indian Creek Campground vicinity. This area is located about a half mile
from the Grand Loop Road about 7 miles south of Mammoth, Montana. All the fish
in Fawn Creek are small brook trout.

Indian Creek:
Near the Indian Creek Campground the Gardner River picks up more water from
Indian Creek. Sage and scrub willows line this small meadow stream. The trout in
Indian Creek are all brook trout that average 6 to 8 inches long.

Panther Creek:
Panther Creek also joins the Gardner in the Indian Creek Campground area. It is a
small meadow stream that is very similar to Indian Creek that flows only a short
distance away. The fish in Panther Creek are all small brook trout.

Obsidian Creek:
Just above the bridge over the Gardner on the Mammoth-Norris Road, Obsidian
Creek also enters the Gardner River. It is a slow moving, willow tree lined stream.
Brook trout are the only species of fish in the creek and they are mostly small. It's
accessible from the Moose Exhibit area on the Mammoth-Tower Road about 11
miles north of Norris Junction.

Winter Creek:
Winter Creek is a small tributary stream that flows into Obsidian Creek. Its fish are
brook trout that average from 6 to 9 inches. It is also accessible from the Moose
Exhibit area on the Grand Loop Road about 11 miles north of Norris Junction.

Straight Creek:
Straight Creek is a small meadow steam that flows North into and out of Grizzly
Lake. Below Grizzly Lake the stream merges with Winter Creek. Its trout are all
small brook trout. The mouth of the stream is accessible by following Winter Creek
upstream to its confluence with Winter Creek.

Glenn Creek:
Glenn Creek is a very small stream that joins the Gardner River about a half mile
above the Sheepeater Canyon Bridge, on the Mammoth-Tower Road. Trout in this
stream are all small brook trout except for a few rainbows and cutbows near the
stream’s confluence with the Gardner River. It can be accessed from bridge that is
located about a mile and a half west of Mammoth on the Mammoth-Tower Road.
From there you can hike upstream along the Gardner River to the mouth of Glenn
Creek.

Lava Creek:
Lava Creek is a larger size tributary stream. See the Lava Creek page.

Comments:
The portion of the stream above the Mammoth/Norris Junction road contains brook
trout only and maybe an occasional small rainbow trout. The trout in the Gardner
River in the campground area and the lower sections of its several tributary
streams are as large as they are going to get anywhere above the bridge. Although
there are several miles of the Gardner River above the 7 Mile Bridge to the
beginning of its headwaters, there are few large fish. Fishing the upper portion may
be fun from a “get away from it all” standpoint but from a pure fishing standpoint,
you could do much better in the lower portion of the river below the high bridge on
the Grand Loop Road to Tower Junction.

            Copyright James Marsh 2011
Indian Creek is another small
meadow stream that has lots of
brook trout.
Straight Creek is one of the
smaller brook trout streams that
flows into the Gardner River. This
small meadow stream is full of
small brook trout.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge.
Thumbnails: Click to enlarge.