Campgrounds on the Madison River
The upper Madison River campgrounds offer plenty of fly fishing access and the opportunity to get away from it all. Here is a short description of campgrounds located on the upper river in Madison County.
Valley Garden - 2 Miles north of Ennis.
Directions: From MRFC Fly Shop, head East towards the Madison River, and take your first left onto Jeffers Road. Turn right after two miles in the campground and fishing access entrance.
Fishing Access: Easy access to the wade-only Channels Section of the Madison River, which features endless braided water with an abundance of cookie cutter rainbows, feisty lakers and big brown trout. Excellent dry fly fishing in the slower sections, ample opportunities to nymph and many cut banks and deep spots for throwing streamers.
Quirks: Simple campsites. Watch out for moose here, as they are abundant, especially in the spring. Bring water on your fishing excursions as you may end up a good ways from the truck. Private land needs to be respected on all sides of the river, especially as you get towards the lake where even the islands are considered private land. This is a primary spawning area for lake run rainbows, please watch your step to avoid redds in the spring.
Ennis Town Campground - Immediately across the bridge from downtown Ennis.
Directions: Go over the river from downtown Ennis and take your first immediate right turn.
Fishing Access: Easy access to the boat launch to head under bridge into wade only section. Several A+ holes and runs upriver about a half mile. Great place for a few casts in the morning or evening. Slow side channels offer great evening caddis dry fly fishing. Nymphing big buckets is often times very productive. Great place for kids.
Quirks: Simple campsites. Gets crowded in the summer. Low flows limit fishing options nearby campsites and forces anglers to head up or down river to deeper water. Watch out for moose, especially in the spring.
Varney Bridge - Turnoff is 8 minutes south of downtown Ennis
Directions: From downtown Ennis, head south on HWY 287 for 8 minutes. Turn right at access sign and go 5 minutes west down dirt road to Varney Bridge Access Site.
Fishing Access: Varney has a variety of fishing options both up and down river. You can expect to find everything from long deep runs, small buckets and skinny dry fly water. The further up river you go, the skinnier it gets. Down river you will start to see the river braid and will find some A+ holes that get deeper than anywhere else on the river. Tough wading throughout this section.
Quirks: Tough to walk back up river. Best to walk up river and fish down or fish down river and walk up. Lots of obstruction to lose flies on during back casts. Very slippery and uneven terrain.
Ruby Creek - Turnoff is about 18 minutes south of downtown Ennis.
Directions: From Ennis, take HWY 287 south for about 18 minutes to McAtee Bridge turnoff just after Indian Creek. Head over the McAtee Bridge and take an immediate left. Go south on Ruby Creek Road for a few miles until you get the campground.
Fishing Access: Classic Madison River riffles here with plenty of buckets and boulders easily accessible on foot. Great evening float option from Ruby to McAtee, making self-shuttles a breeze. Considered one of the best stretches for the salmonfly hatch. Loaded with nice fish.
Quirks: Susceptible to a lot of wind. Relatively remote compared to the rest. Red ants can be abundant during the warmer months. No cell phone service.
Palisades - About 25 minutes south of Ennis
Directions: South on HWY 287 for about 25 minutes to the Palisades Fishing Access turnoff. Head down the hill on the paved road and then stay right to enter the campground. Left takes you down to the boat launch.
Fishing Access: Large area, similar to the Ruby Creek Campground. Wide open river here with the buckets and boulders being the prime target for holding trout. Gorgeous views of the Madison Range.
Quirks: Not many. Wind can be an issue. Relatively remote compared to others near town. No cell phone service.
West Fork Campgrounds - About 32 minutes south of Ennis
Directions: Head 35 miles south of Ennis on HWY 287. You are close when you pass the Lyons Bridge Rest Area. 1 Mile after the rest area turn right to cross West Fork Bridge (Turnoff is slightly tough to see, so take it slow). Head over the bridge where you will find a campground to immediately up river and to the right along the West Fork of the Madison.
Fishing Access: Easy access to a wade only section of the upper Madison River. Great dry fly water. Also ideal for day trips up into the West Fork of the Madison River.
Quirks: Gets crowded with wade fishermen. Borders the Gravelly Range, so food storage is a must at the campsites to prevent bears from strolling through at night. Take bear spray with you if you go up the West Fork.
Raynolds Pass - About 40 miles south of Ennis
Directions: South on HWY 287 for 40 minutes to Raynolds Bridge turn off for HWY 87. Campground is on immediate right before you cross the bridge over the Madison River.
Fishing Access: Great place to stop over for the night on your travels. Walking up or down river gives you ample access to excellent dry fly water. One of the better spots on the Madison for swinging soft hackles.
Quirks: Campground is located at "busy for Montana" highway. Very slippery, difficult wading. Almost impossible to cross the river here due to swift currents.