The Fall River
Cave Falls, Yellowstone National Park, Island Park, Idaho
Cave Falls on the Fall River
The Fall River
The Fall River Below Cave Falls

Tucked in the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, the Fall River basin is truly a fisherman's and waterfall lover's paradise. The Fall River is aptly named because of the many waterfalls along its tributaries. This is the major river that drains the Cascade Corner, of Yellowstone Park. The four major streams in the Fall River drainage are the Belcher River, Boundary Creek, Mountain Ash creek and of course the Fall River. They begin on the Madison and Pitchstone plateaus and they carve canyons across Yellowstone Park's southwest corner. Some of Yellowstone's most beautiful waterfalls are in this area. As the runoff of many creeks drop off the Madison and Pitchstone Plateaus, many waterfalls are formed. With nearly 80 inches of annual precipitation, the Falls River drainage is one of the wettest portions of Yellowstone National Park. The Falls River is a backpacking, fisherman, and photographer's nirvana.

The Fall River, Yellowstone National Park
The Upper Falls River

The Fall River is the largest Henrys Fork tributary. Beginning on the Pitchstone Plateau, The Falls River descends through the Birch Hills flowing west to where the Bechler River joins it upriver Cave Falls. From Cave Falls to Concrete CCC Bridge for 14 miles the river is largely inaccessible by road. Below CCC Bridge the River runs through farmland until it reaches the Henry's Fork River Southeast of Ashton. There are many places to access the lower river.

To access the upper Falls River by Cave Falls, you must ford the river to reach the South Boundary Trail, south of Cave Falls. The trail leaves the river and only comes close to it again in two places along its 30-mile length. The first is the Falls River Cutoff Trail, 4 miles east of Cave Falls. The second is where the Pitchstone Plateau Trail crosses the river about 4 miles farther up the trail. You'll be traveling through prime grizzly country so take all due precautions.

Another way to access the upper Falls River farther upstream is the Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road. About a mile south of Ashton, on Highway 32 the Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road heads east this is also known as the Grassy Lake Road, which ends on the John D. Rockefeller Memorial Highway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. provides access to Fall River. You can also access this road from the east by Flagg Ranch just south of the Yellowstone Park's south entrance about 60 miles north of Jackson WY. You park below the Grassy Lake dam and from there you can access the upper reaches of the Falls River.

cutthroat trout
A fly-fisherman shows off a Fall River Cutthroat Trout

Fishing the Fall River

Fall River has good fishing for rainbow and cutthroat trout, and they get larger the higher upstream you go. The long hike and off-trail access minimize fishing pressure. Because of it's easy to access, the Cave Falls area sees the most fishing. The trout average 10 inches in this stretch, and the action is good. These streams produce big trout but in the past few decades' brook trout have reached these waters.

Much of the Fall River drainage was devoid of trout above Cave Falls. It is believed that Sheep Falls and Cave Falls were the historic upstream barriers for trout. Cutthroat were introduced and were found in basin waters in a 1919 survey. After that Yellowstone cutthroat were planted, Rainbow and trout were introduced later. Both Cutthroats and Rainbows being springtime spawners resulted in a hybrid trout the Cut-bows.

The first significant aquatic insect to emerge is the pale morning dun Beginning in July you'll see stoneflies, and Brown and Green Drakes. In September look for Tricos, Gray Drakes, and Mahogany Duns. In August Grasshoppers become the dominate food form for trout.

Kayaking the Fall River

Kayaker Fall River
Kayaking the Fall River

Cave Falls Campground,, to the Concrete CCC Bridge takeout (the Cave Falls run) is rated class III and the run is 14 miles long. The river below Cave Falls Campground contains numerous cascades and falls and is prime habitat for grizzly bears and bald eagles. The Falls River Flows through a variety of environments, including meadowland, forest, and canyon reaches, numerous falls and rapids, including wilderness providing recreational opportunities, particularly for kayaking.

Concrete CCC Bridge to Kirkham Bridge (Lower Run) this run is mostly long, large, class 3+ wave trains. The longest one, 1/2 mile, has a hole hidden at the end (look for a large basalt cliff on your right and a slight river left bend). There is a diversion dam that you may want to portage about 2/3 way down river. You can see the last major drop by a rock that sticks up right in the middle of the river, also a surprise at the bottom of a wave train. Run left (preferred) or right to avoid pourovers.

Fall River Cave Falls
Cody Hunter skipping rocks on the Fall River
Cave Falls is an impressive landmark on the Falls River

Insects

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Fall River Patterns

Mayflies
                         
Blue Winged Olive (BWO)     •  •
          •
  • Dry Flies: BWO's, Parachute BWO's, Parachute Adams,
Nymphs & Emergers:
Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears, BWO Emergers. Beadhead Nymphs
Pale Morning Dun             •   •
  •       Dry Flies: PMD's, Parachute PMD's, Light Cahill. Pink Cahil, Pink Sparkle Dun, Parachute Adams,  Adams,
Nymphs & Emergers: Pheasant Tails, Hares Ears, PMD Emergers, Qwiggly Cripple. Beadhead Nymphs
Green Drakes          
            Dry Flies: Paradrakes
Nymphs & Emergers:  Prince Nymphs, Beadhead Nymphs  
Caddis
                         
Caddis             •
  •   •       Dry Flies: Elk Hair Caddis, X Caddis, Stimulators,
Nymphs & Emergers
: Peeking Caddis, Buckskin Caddis, Beadhead Nymphs
                           
Yellow Sallies             •    •   •       Dry Flies: Yellow Stimulators, Henry's Fork Yellow Sallies, Yellow Elk Hair Caddis.  Nymphs & Emergers: Prince Nymphs, Beadhead Nymphs
Golden Stoneflies             •
          Dry Flies: Yellow Stimulators, Irresistible Stimulators. Chernobyl Ants, Royal Coachmans, Madam X's, 
Nymphs & Emergers
Prince Nymphs, Stonefly Nymphs, Halfback Nymphs,
Salmonflies             •   •           Dry Flies: Sofa Pillows, Orange Stimulators. 
Nymphs & Emergers:
Black Rubberlegs, Stonefly Rubberlegs, Bitch Creek Nymph.
Terrestrials
                         
Ants           •  •  •   •  •   •     Black Fur Ant, CDC Ant, Foam Ant, Flying Ant
Grasshoppers               •   •   •   •     Dave's Hopper, ParaHopper, Foam Hopper, Madam X's, 
Beetles & Crickets             •   •   •   •   •     Deer Hair Beetle, Foam Beetle, Dave's Cricket, Henry's Fork Cricket
Others
                         
Midges     •   •   •   •   •
  •   •   •   •   • Dry Flies: Griffith's Gnat, Double Midge, Fuzzballs. 
Nymphs & Emergers: Brassie, Midge Emerger,  Disco Midge, Serendipity, Tungsten Beadhead Larva

Insects

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Fall River Patterns

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