South Fork of Flathead, MT - Mountain Buzz

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Old 02-26-2006   #1
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 14
South Fork of Flathead, MT

Anyone here ever been on the SF of the Flathead in West Glacier area of Montana? It's pretty remote...just wanting a firsthand account of the canyon section other than what is in the guide book.

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Old 02-26-2006   #2
Denver, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2005
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Big powerfull water with minimal rock related consiquences. Be prepared for pushy high volume water rather than the techincal runs in Colorado. Huge wavetrains. Some tricky hydraulics and whirlpools where the river narrows, still most of it is forgiving if you happen to swim. However expect freezing even in dead summer. Also don't expect to find any places with gear nearby. I caught a successful hitch back to the put-in, but the area isn't too familiar with boaters. Enjoy the scenery and the amazing blue green water.
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Old 02-26-2006   #3
Join Date: Sep 2005
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Thanks, but are you talking about the Middle Fork?

That sounds more like the Middle Fork of the Flathead. The SF takes two days by mule/horse to get to the put-in so hitching a ride as we know it is kinda outta the question. SF is mostly class I-II with II-IV in a couple of narrow canyon sections.....just wandering about the sections in particular for our raft support.

Thanks Though
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Old 02-27-2006   #4
Join Date: Feb 2006
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S. Fork

You can hire mules to carry your raft in and out. I don't know of any rafters that have gone through the canyon, but doable in a small raft. You can scout it from above. If you have yakers w/ you....check out Gorge Creek right up there as well. Think it's about a 2 mile hike/paddle.
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Old 03-04-2006   #5
Join Date: Oct 2003
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I'm thinking about doing a trip on the Middle Fork Flathead this summer. I've never done it, but I understand that it costs about $300 to fly in from Kalispell for two people and 2 boats. For a trip of a lifetime, it just might be worth it.
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Old 03-04-2006   #6
on your sister, ...
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reading comprehension on this thread seems to be at an all time low.
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Old 03-05-2006   #7
Join Date: Dec 2003
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We kayaked the end canyon section a couple of years ago. Level was around 9k, if I recall. It is about 4-5 mi long (4 to campground, ~5 to lake). The water is impressive. In fact, it is a wild ride. Huge whirlpools, waves, hydrolics. Forget swimming, I don't think you would like it. Flush drowning is a serious risk. At one point, the river is about 6' wide (with 9k blasting through it). No good eddie above it, either. My friend paddled it around 12k and said it was far easier higher. If you like squirting the hell out of your creeker, you will love this section. I was gripped. The campground keeper offered to drive me down to drop a truck at the take-out. He said it was the least he could do for a guy who was about to die.

I'm sure that at different levels it will change hugely. We had a terrible experience at the put-in, with one guy letting his boat get away with all his gear in it (after hiking 4-5 mi). The ensuing chase ended up with a split up group and a yardsale of gear down a highwater canyon. Questionable decision making and unecessary risks rounded out a sketchy day. Maybe your experience will be better. On a good note, the guy who let his boat go didn't lose a piece of gear (including both chacos), thanks to the heroic but misguided efforts of Dave S.

Oh yeah, there is a terminal hydrolic near the bottom of the canyon (at some levels). Go down river from the foot bridge at the campground to scout it. The narrow spot is NOT easy to scout from the trail, and is about 1 mi upriver from the bridge. The river goes through the slot as it banks right, then left in a big S turn. There is a large eddie on r right after the slot. The boat, with one float bag, took around 10 minutes to see the light of day after the slot. DO NOT swim here. The trail is far above the river, and the features look small. They are not. Escape in much of it is difficult at best. The section is definately boatable. I'm a big water wimp. Many would love it. I would not take a raft in there b/c of the slot. At low flows, you will be able to eddie left above the slot it looked like. If you can eddie above the slot, the carry around it will be easy (100' on bedrock/boulders). At 9k an eddie fence committed you to the slot from 300+ yds up river.

As mentioned, you can hire horse packers to pack you down the trail past the gorge.

Good luck
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Old 03-05-2006   #8
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 14

Thanks for the info. We have hired mules for the haul in, and at 100% pack right now we will come in over the south side and actually launch on Young's Creek.

Your description of the narrow canyon seems close to what I have heard from a couple of others, although it sounds like the water level was much higher with your group. We are hoping for levels closer to 2,000---helping to reduce the pushiness of the slots and allow for us to line the raft through this section. It sounds like the key is hitting the right water level.

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Old 03-09-2006   #9
Join Date: Jun 2004
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I lived in whitefish and columbia falls for 7 years. At the time however I wasn't a kayaker and didn't become one until getting to colorado. I've got friends though who are die hard kayakers and could give you more info. If you want data on places to camp etc I can give you any of that.
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