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The Tongue River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River, approximately 265 mi (426 km) long, in the U.S. states of Wyoming and Montana. The Tongue rises in Wyoming in the Big Horn Mountains, flows through northern Wyoming and southeastern Montana and empties into the Yellowstone River at Miles City, Montana. Most of the course of the river is through the beautiful and varied landscapes of eastern Montana, including the Tongue River Canyon, the Tongue River breaks, the pine hills of southern Montana, and the buttes and grasslands that were formerly the home of vast migratory herds of American Bison.
The Tongue River rises in the highlands of the Big Horn Mountains in north central Wyoming descends the eastern side of mountains, emerging from Tongue River's mountain canyon near Dayton, Wyoming. The river then flows eastward, past Ranchester, Wyoming and merges with Goose Greek, after which the Tongue turns to flow northeast into Montana where it is dammed, forming the Tongue River reservoir. Continuing northeast from the reservoir, the river flows through Tongue River's prairie canyon, and the Tongue River breaks passing Birney, Montana. The river forms the eastern boundary of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation from about 4.5 miles north of the reservoir to a point 6 miles (9.7 km) north of Ashland, Montana, after which the river continues to flow in a broad valley to its mouth on the Yellowstone River near Miles City, Montana. The Tongue River Valley near Decker, Montana also contains the southeast corner of the large Crow Indian Reservation.
Tongue River Canyon can refer to either the river's mountain canyon in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming, or the river's prairie canyon in Montana, located downstream from the Tongue River Dam and Reservoir.
The major tributaries of the Tongue are Pumpkin Creek, Otter Creek, Hanging Woman Creek, Prairie Dog Creek and Goose Creek. All these tributaries enter on the right hand side of the river, and all flow in a northerly direction. Pumpkin Creek enters the Tongue about 13 miles (21 km) above the mouth of the river, and extends for 71 miles (114 km) into the Custer National Forest; the small community of Sonnette, Montana is at the headwaters. Otter Creek enters the Tongue River near Ashland, Montana, about 68 miles (109 km) miles upstream of the mouth of the river, and its headwaters are near the Wyoming-Montana state line about 40 miles (64 km) to the south. Hanging Woman Creek empties into the Tongue at Birney, Montana, about 91 miles (146 km) above the mouth of the Tongue, and its headwaters are 35 miles (56 km) away in northern Wyoming. Prairie Dog Creek and Goose Creek flow into the Tongue at the point where the Tongue turns from an eastward direction to flow toward the north east. Goose Creek drains a scenic, well watered basin in Wyoming, on the eastern edge of the Big Horn Mountains where Sheridan and Big Horn, Wyoming are located.
The drainage basin to the west is the Rosebud Creek basin. The drainage basin to the east is the Powder River basin. Both rivers, like the Tongue, flow in a northerly direction into the Yellowstone River.
The Tongue and its tributaries flow through parts of Custer County, Powder River County, Rosebud County and Big Horn County in Montana, and Sheridan County in Wyoming.
The Tongue River Reservoir is popular among fishermen for a variety of fish. Very large catfish have been caught at the reservoir. In its upper reaches above the Tongue River Reservoir, and extending into the Big Horn Mountains, the Tongue River is fished for trout.
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