The headwaters of the Yellowstone River are deep within the Absaroka Mountain Range in Wyoming. On its 692 mile journey to join the Missouri River, the Yellowstone flows through some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. Starting high up on Yount’s Peak in northwestern Wyoming, the river is lucky enough to wind its way through Yellowstone National Park. While in the park it plunges over three notable waterfalls: 109 feet at the Upper Falls, another 308 feet at the spectacular Lower Falls down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and then upon leaving the canyon, the river cascades down another 132 feet at Tower Falls. The river continues to flow northward and exits the park through Gardiner, MT, home to the Roosevelt Arch and the original entrance to the park. From there the river enters Paradise.
The aptly named Paradise Valley, MT is one of the most breathtaking river valleys in the country. The valley is oriented on a north-south axis and is anchored at the southern end by Yankee Jim Canyon (and beyond that, the entrance to Yellowstone National Park) and the town of Livingston, MT to the north. The stunning Absaroka Range rises 6,000 feet from the valley floor to define the eastern boundary and the Gallatin Range separates it from the Gallatin Valley and Bozeman to the west. The Paradise Valley landscape is one that is more familiar to people than they probably know having appeared as the backdrop to several major films such as A River Runs Through It and The Horse Whisperer. The valley’s beauty and privacy has also long attracted well-known celebrities, including John Mayer and Jeff Bridges, to take up residence along the river.
The landscape is dotted with vast ranches and grazing cattle that, during the winter in particular, share the land with a vast array of ungulate species taking advantage of the valley’s fertile land and (relatively) mild temperatures.
My first visit to Paradise Valley was about ten years ago on a fly fishing trip that took advantage of nearby Yellowstone National Park, the world-class fishing on the Yellowstone River, and the geothermal activity of the region at Chico Hot Springs. I only spent several days in the valley on that trip, but it is a landscape that never left me. I have passed through the valley several times on the way to the park since that first trip, but now that it is out my back door I am looking forward to exploring Paradise.