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Old 05-25-2010   #1
The Mogur's Avatar
Oregon City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1972
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 457
North Flathead, Montana

Someone in a different forum on this site asked about the North Fork of the Flathead River. I've floated that river, and here are my observations about it.

In general, it is a Class II run. I launched at the end of the road, right at the Canadian Border. At that point, the river is gray with glacial silt, fast, and ice cold. Canadian mosquitos spill over the border, and they are as thick in the air as bad odors around an old outhouse.

The entire east bank of the river is Glacier National Park. In theory, you are supposed to have a back country permit to camp there. I was able to find good campsites on the west bank, so that was never an issue.

Grizzly bears are protected in Glacier Park, so there is guaranteed to be a population of them nearby. I doubt that they know to stay within the park boundaries, so they are probably around on both sides of the river. I never saw any on my trip.

I used my standard bear precautions: No food in or around tents. All food boxes and coolers stacked together and double-strapped. Pots and pans on top of the coolers, along with cups of ammonia. We had no trouble with camp-raiding animals of any kind.

The rapids on the trip are easy. My 8-year-old son rowed his own raft, and my wife rowed hers. The only spooky place was where a logjam extended out into the flow. The current swept right into and under the logjam. It was easy enough to row to the far side of the river and stay out of trouble, but still it is frightening to imagine what would happen if someone didn't recognize the hazard and ended up getting swept up against the logjam. Your lead boat needs to be in the hands of someone who can recognize such hazards in time to lead the group to a safe route.

We had a great trip, six days including a layover. We were able to do our own shuttle by leaving a car at the take-out, and the only trouble we had was when we got to the put-in and found our car there with a dead battery. AAA is a long way away! We had jumpers and were able to get it started.

I had a book, The Floaters Guide to Montana, by Hank Fischer, which was some help in planning the trip. I don't know if it is possible to find the book today. Try

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Old 05-25-2010   #2
Asheville, North Carolina
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 2
Thanks so much, great info. What time of year was your trip?

Did you camp close to the access points or find spots in between?

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Old 05-25-2010   #3
nomad, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 47
Yea I'm interested about the time of year you did it as well. We were hoping to be able to do it at the end of July but hadn't looked at float seasons, snow pack etc.. any info would be helpful.
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Old 05-25-2010   #4
The Mogur's Avatar
Oregon City, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1972
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 457
My North Flathead trip was in the first half of July. We had some sun, but most of our trip was under overcast sky with temperatures in the 60s and low 70s. We had some rain, but we were well prepared and it was not a problem, even though our group included 4 kids, aged 8 to 10.

The water level was good, and I doubt that it would drop out of boatable range if you went 2 weeks later. My book says the best season is mid-July to mid-August.

We launched at the Canada border and took out at Blankenship Bridge. We camped at the put-in, and then found good campsites when we needed them. None was within sight of the road, and the only time we were even aware of the road's presence was when we went past a construction site. We could hear the machinery, and at one point they must have pushed some dirt into the river, because it briefly went muddy.

The road, by the way, was pretty primitive by the time we got to the border. It was just a 2-track rut, but we made it with a Malibu station wagon pulling a light flatbed trailer. It may have been improved since our trip, which was in 1986.

Mostly the water was clear or slightly silted with bluish-gray glacial silt. Our fishermen were successful--kids used bait, adults used flies.

I checked, and they do not have any copies available of the only book I know of with an account of the North Flathead. I guess it is long out of print. I'll see if I can copy the section about this river--it's only about 4 pages, so don't expect any detail.
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Old 05-26-2010   #5
Whitefish, Montana
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 14
I'm actually planning on that float in early July. I have floated from ford down to Polebridge an easy very scenic half day. I have done all the lower portions as well. As stated earlier it's barely a class II that low. Montanas best fishing waters has a nice map with GPS coordinates etc. So check that out if your interested. The road is the biggest issue it gets to be in bad shape so plan on taking your time. Have fun it's one of the more scenic floats in Montana Montana's Best Fishing Waters: 170 Detailed Maps of 34…
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