Long-term streamflow forecasting is of great significance to the optimal management of water resources. However, the forecast lead time of long-term streamflow forecasting is relatively long and the forecasted precipitation within the forecast lead time has inherent uncertainty, so long-term streamflow forecasting has major challenges. In this paper, a hybrid forecasting model is developed to improve accuracy of long-term streamflow forecasting by combining random forests (RF) and the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The RF model is used to forecast monthly precipitation which is further downscaled to a daily dataset according to the hydrological similarity principle for use in the SWAT model of the Danjiangkou Reservoir basin, China. Performance of this hybrid model is compared to that of seasonal autoregressive (SAR (P)) model. Results show the RF precipitation generator yields accurate predictions at the monthly scale and the hybrid model produces acceptable streamflow series in long-term forecasting cases. In addition, the comparison shows that in the Danjiangkou Reservoir basin, the hybrid model performs better than the SAR (P) model, with average Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) values of 0.94 and 0.51, which is better when it is closer to 1. This study provides a method of improving accuracy of long-term streamflow forecasting.

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