Historic Karst Kamp

Yellowstone Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing Lessons for Beginners and Experts

Historic Karst Kamp

Historic Karst Kamp of Gallatin Canyon • The Gateway to Yellowstone

Karst Fly Fishing Camp on the Gallatin
The Gallatin River is also the home to our Fly Fishing Center at the historic Karst Kamp. This private river front property has access to a great fishing hole and also has plenty of space to optimize the learning process. The shop is open for rentals and outfitter gear as well as being the base for our Learn to Fly Fish program.

Originally a dude ranch, Karst Kamp, established in 1901 by Pete Karst, began as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park for early tourists. The camp, known as Karst Stage Stop Inn, saw up to 600 tourists per summer with 25 guests cabins. In 1937, Pete built a towrope for skiers, which has since vanished, as well as a bar and brothel for local miners. Visitors can imagine the rugged conditions both residents and tourists must have had to endure to appreciate Yellowstone Country 100 years ago.

Gallatin Canyon, between Bozeman and Big Sky, MT, follows the path of the pristine Gallatin River into Yellowstone National Park. In the early 1900's, Gallatin Canyon residents hosted visiting hunters as a way to bring in much-needed cash. This venture was so successful that the residents decided to start summer dude-ranching as well. One of these historic settlements is now our Fly Flishing Adventure Center.

There were three dude ranches in the canyon: Michener Camp, Karst Camp and Buffalo Horn Resort. In the early days they cooperated, agreeing to charge $12 per week for room and board. The first visitors came with little or no knowledge of the “Wild West.” They rode horses, hiked, fished, panned for gold and were entertained with outrageous, mostly untrue, tales. Once the Northern Pacific Railroad began to advertise the area, the ranches started hosting more and more guests, most traveling from Milwaukee, Grand Rapids, Chicago and other big cities to the east.

With business booming, Pete Karst innovated beyond the tradional ranch, creating a thriving tourist destination, a resort. Aside from being located on the one of the best fishing holes on the Gallatin River, he had a bar and restaurant, a museum of artifacts, electricity, a heated swimming pool and, when his daughter happened to marry a golf pro, he installed a golf course. At the height of his business, Karst had over 25 guest cabins and could accomodate 100 visitors/night.

Pete Karst was known to do some shady business as well. During the prohibition of the 20’s, Karst Kamp was a place where people could get liquor. All they had to do was go to the bar and ask for a “bottle of pop.” Pete Karst himself famously said, “It was a pretty good bootleg. No one ever went blind.” However, one day Karst sold some liquor to a federal agent. After begging and crying to the judge, he was allowed to serve his 100-day sentence during the winter so as not to interrupt his business. People also remember that Karst would dig a large hole in the narrow road in front of his place, hauling water from the river to fill it. Drivers would sink into the hole and he would charge $3 per car to be towed out. A true entrepreneur!

Business continued to grow and in the winter of 1935, Karst constructed the first ski tow in Montana. People came from Bozeman on weekends to ski and party at Karst Kamp. They held races and constructed a 90-foot ski jump. Jumpers came from around the country, several Olympians among them, to show the locals how to do it.

It was this amazing man’s legendary character that drew people to spend many summers enjoying this area. Karst Kamp was sold in the early 1950’s when Pete retired. Travelers shared many laughs with Pete Karst; they would often stay for a drink, a meal or even a few nights. A fire swept through in the late 50's, leaving only some small cabins. Today, this is private property and the memories remain mostly in photos and stories, but the legendary fishing hole persists. Montana Whitewater's beginner fly-fishing lessons take place at this historic place. We aim to balance this connection with the past; to preserve our beautiful canyons and rivers, but at the same time bring our modern world customers intune to the rhythms of nature. This unique area has been dedicated to public recreation and we are commited to continuing this tradition. We hope you come to relax, enjoy and make lasting memories.

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    Karst Bar

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    Classy Fishing on the Gallatin

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    Historic Cabins at Karst

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    Pete Karst

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    Old Brochure

Information courtesy of “Montana’s Gallatin Canyon” by J.Cronin and D.Vick.