When Yellowstone Country's Executive Director, Robin Hoover, won a rafting trip from Absaroka River Adventures in an auction, her first thought was to organize a girl's getaway on the Stillwater River. "Just tell me when and I'll be there," her friend Loretta, and Yellowstone Country board member immediately replied. Gathering up two more friends who also serve on the Yellowstone Country board, the four ladies set out to experience a weekend vacation in their backyard.
The Stillwater River, a tributary of the Yellowstone River, emerges from the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Despite its name, the river has significant whitewater, with some of the most popular sections being class II and III rapids. The top part of the river has large drops, rocks, and swift currents, before spilling into rolling prairies and canyons for another 45 miles to meet the Yellowstone River in Columbus, Montana.
The ride to Whitebird Fishing Access, where the trip began, was bustling with excited young families. However, Absaroka Outfitters keeps their trip sizes to a maximum of four people for safety purposes, a move that, in the long run, makes the experience quite enjoyable. As an aside, the Whitebird access itself is a lovely place to camp, fish, and play on the water.
The two-hour afternoon float is a nice mix of whitewater and peaceful floating. Marilyn spoke highly of their guide, who was on-the-ready to tell them when to paddle and when to rest. "He guided us through the Beartooth Drop and all around the whitewater areas with ease," Marilyn said. "At one point, he had us close our eyes and put our feet in the water just before the Stillwater-Yellowstone confluence. He told us to yell out when we reached the Yellowstone—you can tell because the water is much warmer than the Stillwater. You can easily see the color difference of the two rivers as you come close," she said. "The Yellowstone is darker and greener, whereas the Stillwater is blue, clear, and cold."
She goes on, "What a marvelous afternoon on the water. For part of the trip, we floated beside the train and by an eagle's nest." Loretta adds to that, "Relaxing with the ladies and taking in all the sites was my favorite part."
“Marilyn chimed in, “Somewhere along the way, I named us the YCOB…that would be YC Ole Broads.”
Hungry from a day in the sun, dinner on the deck of the Wild Flower Kitchen was next on the list. "Masked waiters brought the most delightful meal," Marilyn recalls. "I had Crab Cake Salad, and it was yummy; super lump crab, grilled corn, cherry tomato, bell peppers, and mixed greens with house lemon vinaigrette and spicy aioli." Other entrees the group enjoyed were baby back ribs with mac and cheese, and pancetta, pea, and asparagus pasta. Though they all agreed, the Montana Mess, a dessert made of meringue and whipped cream with raspberry sauce, was their favorite part.
After a restful night in Lena's Cabins, three of the four women set out to continue exploring the backroads of Stillwater County. Stopping at fishing accesses along the way, they explored Cliff Swallow, Castle Rock, and Beehive's community with an old school and community center. Sitting on the swing set, Robin recalls, "As we were sitting on the old swings in the playground looking at the incredible scenery, I couldn't stop thinking about how fortunate we were to get to just hang out with friends, reliving our youth (school) in a place so unspoiled & beautiful. It was a reminder for me that we need to make time in our busy lives to just enjoy who and what is around us."
Shari echoed that sentiment, "The teamwork and companionship we shared were very relaxing."
They moved on to Woodbine Falls, a spectacular waterfall 280 feet high. The falls are as impressive as what you'll find in Yellowstone or Glacier, but the area is vastly less visited, so the feeling is much more intimate.
They ended the backroads tour with a prime rib and tenderloin dinner at the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe Montana—a steakhouse that Montanans treat as a destination.
Marilyn summed it up, "It was altogether a most memorable day and a half with my YC Ole Broads. It was delightful. Our eyeballs were treated to a glorious time."