Stretching nearly 700 miles (1127 km) through northern Wyoming and southern Montana, the Yellowstone River is the longest undammed river in the lower 48 of the United States. As a result, it’s also among the wildest waterways in America, twisting, turning, and even flooding, just as nature intended it. That’s in stark contrast to other rivers heavily regulated and managed for commercial use, like the Colorado and Mississippi Rivers.
An Interview With Hunter Weeks
For documentary filmmaker Hunter Weeks, this “untouched” reputation was just part of the appeal when he set out to film an expedition along the entire length of the Yellowstone River. The result, “Where the Yellowstone Goes,” is an incredible story of their 30 day trip down the river as they fly fish, meet the locals, and enjoy the beauty of nature. We caught up with Weeks to learn a little more about the film itself and find out what makes the Yellowstone River such a compelling subject.
Some of the links in this article may contain affiliate links. When you make a purchase using these links, we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Additionally, as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Please see our disclosure for more details.
How did this project get started?
Hunter Weeks: “I had just moved to Montana and was talking to a friend of mine, who’s a fourth-generation fly fishing guide from the area. He was going on about how cool it would be to float the whole length of the Yellowstone. Montana is one of those states that hasn’t been too changed from the past, so my first thought was, ‘Man, that would make for a pretty cool film.’ It took us two years to plan the trip and raise funds for it, but we hit the river in July  and ended up spending 31 days floating the river with a camera crew and camping every night along the way.”
So what is it about the Yellowstone?
HW: “The Yellowstone River is special because it has avoided some of the challenges that other rivers have faced. So when you’re out there, you’re experiencing the river just as nature intended it. You get to experience the ecosystem the way it always was. The Yellowstone is the river that bucked the system.”
What’s it like to spend a month floating a river?
HW: “It was a pretty cool experience. You really get to see nature in ways you haven’t before, like seeing the cycle of the moon rising a little brighter and a little later every day. You notice these things since you’re pretty much going the same direction the whole time. It really helps you understand our place in the world. We camped on these small islands that are all along the river. It was a pretty raw experience.”
What sorts of people did you meet along the way?
HW: “The funny thing about the Yellowstone is that, even though it’s a wild river, it pretty much has civilization all around it for its full distance. There are usually cliffs and bluffs around you, so you feel pretty way out in the wilderness when you’re on the river, but the reality is that it follows along the interstate and there’s development everywhere. So we got to interact with a lot of people, popping into towns along the way to find people to tell their stories.”
HW: “We stayed one night on the property of the “Cake Ladies” in Park City, Mont., who are known for donating cakes for various causes in the area. They were born along the river in the 1920s. So, they had a lot of stories about how the river has changed over the years. One thing they told us was that their house is on land that William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, used on his return trip for building canoes. I mean, it was only 205 years ago that Lewis and Clark were on that same stretch of river.”
Feel Inspired With “Where The Yellowstone Goes”
So, if you’re looking for some history and a getaway to a genuinely free river, “Where The Yellowstone Goes” can provide that escape.
More information about the film is available at www.wheretheyellowstonegoes.com or check out the trailer. Prior to “Where the Yellowstone Goes,” Hunter Weeks directed and produced “10 MPH,” which chronicled a cross country road trip from Seattle to Boston via Segway, as well as “Ride the Divide”, “10 Yards” and more.
Snowshoe Magazine first published this article.