Central Montana’s Three Forks is spilling over with American history and small town charm, making it a likely venue for a high-energy rock and classic rock festival.
Located off the Jefferson River in a scenic mountain area, the Rockin the Rivers Festival takes place annually in early-to-mid August, providing Montanans and out-of-towners with a memorable and reverberating rock ‘n roll experience.
Around for over 20 years (since 1999!), this fest’s lineup gets better with each passing year, from Steppenwolf and Joan Jett to Third Eye Blind and REO Speedwagon. Newer bands have come through Three Forks, as well, making their mark at one of the most anticipated festival slates in the state.
As Montana’s original 3-day festival, its founders were music aficionados, Montana cowboys, and rockers in their own right who craved three days of rock and leisure.
The first two festivals in 1999 and 2000 led to the first true annual fest in 2001, and this rock jam has been building in attendees ever since.
Why do we love to rock the rivers? It’s stuck to its roots in true Montana fashion: the fest is still held in the same field as the first gathering, an area affectionately known to locals as The Bridge. With such staying power, why mess with a good thing?
While numerous festival partners and sponsors have come and gone, the essence of the festival hasn’t shifted: bringing high voltage and pulsating music to the masses.
If you’re in town for longer than the festival dates, we suggest checking out the stunning Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, as well as the Missouri Headwaters State Park, a landmark in its own right.
But let’s be honest: as the land where Lewis and Clark traveled and Sacajawea reunited with her family after years of separation, there’s so much history and natural beauty to explore around these huckleberry-infused mountains and rivers.
For a completely different vibe, this area is also home to the laid-back, country-infused Headwater Country Jam, another sizzling summer opportunity to spend time with friends and family.
Be on the lookout for information about that, if you’re a genre-hopping music fiend! Let’s get into some details, festie bestie!
Rockin the Rivers Festival Event Details
We love a good festival lineup, but the most important details can be even more important. (Where are those festie showers, anyway?) See below for the most up-to-date information on admission, camping, parking, and more.
- Dates: August 11-13, 2022; Dates vary by year
- 1865 Hwy 2, Cardwell, MT 59721
- (406) 285-0099
- Admission: Three Day General Admission: $170. One Day General Admission: $80. VIPs Packages also available. Admission does not include parking and camping. Children 12 and under are free. For more information on tickets, parking, and camping, visit the ticket website.
- Contact: Rockin the Rivers
Looking to camp? You’ll find some great information below about where to park your tent or RV.
And sure, some rules were made to be broken (this is a rock festival, after all!), but the organizers have set some reasonable guidelines on campfires, food, and more.
Camping & More
Let’s face it: camping at a festival takes a certain disposition. You have to be willing to rough it along with thousands of neighbors, some of who have already traveled across state boundaries to get to the campsite.
If you’re one of those adventurers, we’ve got all the information you’ll need to camp comfortably under the Montana stars.
First things first, your festival pass doesn’t include camping, so you’ll need to purchase that separately. But once you do, you’ll have two great camping options, Campground 1 and The Flats Campground.
At both camping sites, you’ll find that each site is 20 feet by 40 feet with 2.5 clearance from the side. Since many sites are on uneven ground, we recommend bringing blocking for your car or RV, as well as setting your parking brake.
Some good news: you can bring off-site food and drinks to your camping site – we’ll take five hamburgers, please and thank you!
And speaking of grills, only self-contained propane grills are allowed – no charcoal grills or open fires. Likewise, both sites strictly enforce a reasonable 3 am quiet time rule, and neither allows loud PA systems or stereos (You’re at a festival to experience its ear-piercing PA system, not your own!).
The Flats Campground is located near the Bridge, and features a complimentary shuttle to the arena from 10 am to 2 am, as well as single-night camping options. The Flats is also closest to the Day Parking area if you’re looking to take a refresher.
The much larger Campground 1 offers numerous sites, ADA parking and camping, a non-generator section, VIP camping, and closer proximity to the showers. Yes, showers! While on-site showers are available for $5 a pop near the right side of the arena, you’ll want to bring your own towel. Trust us – we know from experience.
For even more information on camping on-site, check on Rockin the Rivers’ camping homepage. And don’t forget to pack in and pack out – the campsite rule applies to the whole weekend. Let’s take care of our beautiful Montana landscape!
Food, Drinks, & More
Authorized food and merchandise vendors will be set up inside the arena, and drinks will be available from local breweries as well as your tried-and-true national variety.
If you’re hoping to become a food or merchandise vendor at Rockin the Rivers, we recommend checking out their website’s vendor page. Otherwise, you can expect plenty of local goodies and craft beer to round out your epic weekend of rock.
A few more things: inside the arena, you’ll find an area off the side to buy high-demand festival merchandise.
Low on cash but want to support a local vendor? ATMs are set up inside the arena for your convenience! And a local store will be available outside the arena if you forgot the necessary camping supplies and other essentials.
We recommend bringing your own lawn chair or blanket to sit on, as well as sunscreen, hats, fans, and water (Only one unopened water bottle is allowed inside the arena per person, so keep it cool!). There’s extremely limited seating in the beer garden, so those lawn chairs and blankets will certainly come in handy.
If you were hoping to bring your furry friend along for the epic ride to Guitar Town, you’re going to have to think twice. Unfortunately, no pets are allowed on the festival grounds, so start thinking about what kind of merch you want to bring back for them (A bandana!?).
But it’s just as well because the Three Forks area offers great dog walking opportunities once the festival is over, and yes, we do have a favorite for our pups: Missouri Headwaters State Park.
Your dog may not comprehend the historical impact of this area (looking at you, Lewis and Clark stans!), but they sure will appreciate its multiple hiking trails – as do we.
While camping at Rockin the Rivers is strongly encouraged to immerse yourself in the chaotic throw of rock ‘n roll, we know some of you would rather break it up with a hotel, motel, or even a less-crowded camping opportunity.
Just a short drive east, we love the historic Sacajawea Hotel, named for the beloved Lewis and Clark guide who was reunited with family near this location (Sidenote: they offer a surprising array of spa services, including a Madison River Rock massage. Treat yo’self!).
One of our favorite camping alternatives is right in Three Forks – Three Forks KOA Journey. They’ve got some of the best trout fishing in this neck of the three forks of the Missouri River, and they’ve got you covered if you need a break from the festival noise.
Honorable mention goes to Cardwell General Store and Campground for a unique Montana experience in tents, RVs, or cabins. Just know that you’ve got options if camping with 6,000 new best friends doesn’t appeal to your comfort levels. Here are some Discovering Montana favorites:
- Sacajawea Hotel (Our top pick!)
- Jefferson Inn
- Travelodge by Wyndham, Three Forks
- The Lewis & Clark Motel
- Broken Spur Motel
- Cardwell General Store and Campground
- Three Forks KOA Journey