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SO i am looking at an overnight float trip for the spring and I stumbled on pictures of the north and south fork of the flathead which look beautiful. I can't find a ton on info on either of those or the middle fork of the flathead. So out of those 3 what do you think is the best overall trip.
Brian
 

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No experience on the Flathead...yet,but sounds like the South Fork is friggin sick. I have a Forest Service guidebook that i found up there this summer,pretty decent book. Middle Fork sounds like the rowdy one. NF sounds like a beauty float trip,GNP off to the east......mmmm

I GOTTA get up there and do some floatin...place looks awesome.
 

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Totally different rivers. For a good explanation/description of each, buy Hank Fischer's book "Paddling Montana." Lots of good information on all of Montana's rivers is in this book.
 

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Brian this kid at school has done the Flathead, we talked about it last week. I will ask him for beta when I see him this week.
 

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I tell you what little I know. My daughter guided on the Middle Fork for 3 seasons and I have run the MF & NF.

Middle Fork: Roadside Class III, fun rapids, borders Glacier National Park.
Even being roadside there are overnight options but also bear issues.
Two separate Class III sections with a big flat in between and killer scenery. Easy shuttle or hitchhiking options. Above that is the Schafer Meadows section (25? miles) that is wilderness Class III / IV but requires a flyin or pack horses and usually done as a two nighter.

North Fork: Float trip on the western border of Glacier. Scenery & Fishing not much for rapids.
Start in the town of Pole Bridge and float to the confluence.

South Fork: Another pack or hike in with a narrow gorge. Have not done it.

Lower Flathead/Buffalo Run: Below Flathead Lake, need tribal permit, easy to get from sporting good stores.
Dam controlled big water Class III. We ran it at 18-20k cfs and it was Grand Canyon size wave trains. Big fun.
Not sure of the overnight restrictions, but there were plenty of potential camping spots.

One caution for Northern Montana boating. The days are incredibly long, we were boating till after 9 pm some days. We did the Albertson Gorge on the Clarks Fork AND the Buffalo run on the Lower Flathead in the same day! Too much fun!!!
 

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I've never boated these rivers so this is only second hand information, but the middle fork looks like a sick trip. It requires a flight to the put-in. The south fork is accessible only by packing in gear by horses, and the lower gorge is very narrow and intimidating.
 

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south fork

can the gorge on the south fork be run?

the forest service publication seems to suggest it is full of undercuts and is unrunnable
 

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I'm curious about the Meadow Creek Gorge too. Is this the preferred takeout b/c of the gorge below or do people just portage......4.5miles??? Or jus run the meat? SF sounds tits!

Nourse could never have done that. He paddles sit on tops down Filterplant all day. He's not even gnar. He only has 83 posts and has only been on mtnbuzz for a year. No way could this have happened!
 

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I tell you what little I know. My daughter guided on the Middle Fork for 3 seasons and I have run the MF & NF.

Middle Fork: Roadside Class III, fun rapids, borders Glacier National Park.
Even being roadside there are overnight options but also bear issues.
Two separate Class III sections with a big flat in between and killer scenery. Easy shuttle or hitchhiking options. Above that is the Schafer Meadows section (25? miles) that is wilderness Class III / IV but requires a flyin or pack horses and usually done as a two nighter.

North Fork: Float trip on the western border of Glacier. Scenery & Fishing not much for rapids.
Start in the town of Pole Bridge and float to the confluence.

South Fork: Another pack or hike in with a narrow gorge. Have not done it.

Lower Flathead/Buffalo Run: Below Flathead Lake, need tribal permit, easy to get from sporting good stores.
Dam controlled big water Class III. We ran it at 18-20k cfs and it was Grand Canyon size wave trains. Big fun.
Not sure of the overnight restrictions, but there were plenty of potential camping spots.

One caution for Northern Montana boating. The days are incredibly long, we were boating till after 9 pm some days. We did the Albertson Gorge on the Clarks Fork AND the Buffalo run on the Lower Flathead in the same day! Too much fun!!!
The NF can also be run above polebridge, from up above the Ford cabin, day run. gorgeous along the craggy peaks of Glacier NP, but pretty flat (my first rafting trip ever!)

The MF wilderness section is considered an excellent wilderness whitewater trip, and can be extended to the road-side version.

The SF gorge is considered "unrunnable" by all but the "most skilled" in paddle rafts or kayaks/IK's. It's considered too skinny for an oar rig, but who knows? The SF up to there is mostly a fishing/scenery trip. Most horse pack in from Holland Lake and do it guided so the guides so the 1-2 mile (or so) portage around the gorge.

The Flathead (below the lake) also has a multiday starting at Buffalo bridge. You miss buffalo rapids which are the huge ones Rich mentions above. Gorgeous scenery, hardly anyone. It seems because it's tribal many people avoid it. Shuttle's available from raft co in Polson, leaving a vehicle is not recommended. Runt to Sloan bridge or Dixon. Once you're past sloan it's still beautiful, but you get into some ranch country and it's not as remote. Not much fishing along this stretch, due to dam operation

It's all Grizzly country. Typically bears aren't an issue if you are diligent and smart.
 

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American Whitwater has a description of the Meadow Creek run of the S. Fork. I've only seen it at high flows (~11,000 cfs), and from a kayak. At these flows, I think that an oar rig could get through the "slot" and would definitely make it through the Gorge (the pic's on AW are at this level). But it is pushy, and the gorge is filled with plenty of undercuts, though they did not come into play at the flows we had. Check out the comments section of the run description on AW..has an account of a raft trip through the section.
American Whitewater - NWRI - Flathead, South Fork 2. Mid Creek to Cedar Flats
 

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The MF wilderness section is considered an excellent wilderness whitewater trip, and can be extended to the road-side version.
Connecting the two runs is not done because the river has several miles of slow meanders between them.

Log jams have been reported to be problem in that stretch, too.
 

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Connecting the two runs is not done because the river has several miles of slow meanders between them.

Log jams have been reported to be problem in that stretch, too.

Not entirely true...there is a fun section from Essex MT (first put in after wilderness section) and you can take out before the Nyack flats section. You get to go by the goat lick where mountain goats head down a steep bank with exposed salt deposits to get their fix. There is a huge wave in the flats as well. I know a few people that have done an overnight trip from Essex to Blankenship Bridge, camping on the south side of the river (out of park, thus no permit needed). The Nyack section is not the most exciting in terms of WW, but still offers the classic Glacier scenery.
 

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Connecting the two runs is not done because the river has several miles of slow meanders between them.

Log jams have been reported to be problem in that stretch, too.
You can make it whatever you want, end the multiday and do a day run or two on the way out, or pack up and do another overnighter on the way down. I can't imagine packing up, driving, and reloading all of the gear for another river camp, as you are probably getting at.

You're right about the wood, it's an issue on all of the stretches except below the dam.

If you haven't found it from the AW site, here's that blog

Montana Eddy Hop

look under June 2007, a few comments are listed. You might search the Buzz archives since there's been a couple of discussions over the years as people consider going.
 

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im here to keep you out

im back to say stay away from the flathead folks. its cold, brown, full of trees and is seldom paddled, if us locals dont get ya, hopefully the grizzly will. On the real, best stick to idaho where the real rivers are. Dont just think cause you dont need a permit you will be welcomed up here in this country. We are the unofficial river patrol and will not hesitate to deflate your rubber at all costs:evil:
 

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Flathead 3 forks

I am a native of Kalispell, MT (the hub for all three forks of the Flathead River) and have rafted/kayaked all sections of the three forks. It really all depends on what you are looking for, how much time you have, and your budget.

North Fork: Probably the most realistic to do an extended trip with possiblities of several nights camping on the river. No noteable rapids, but scenery like you have never seen. Put in at Canada Border and stay at Ford Cabin. Then Ford Cabin to Polebridge. Polebridge to Big Creek. Big Creek to Blankenship. You can rent cabins at Ford and/or Polebridge. Like I noted before, no notable rapids, but scenic and fairly good fishing for cuttthoart, whitefish, and bull trout. This river has been noted as a Float Fishermans Paradise and it fits the bill. The fishing is good quanity wise, but the fish just don't have enough food to get huge. Average lenght of cuttthoart/whitefish will be 6-12 inches and your lucky if you can get a bulltrout.

Middle Fork: Two options.
1) Fly into schafer meadows ($200 per person) and probably take out at Bear Creek or Essex. This is the best whitewater section of the three forks and depending on time of year can run up to Class 4+. This trip takes 3-5 days and is a truely a wild river experience. Excellent fishing for cutthorat trout and average 12-20 inches. Rapids in the spring, fishing in late July and August. Gets to low to run a raft late July/Aug. Probably your best bet for a true Montana wild river experience.
2) Bear Creek to West Glacier or Blankenship. This trip will take two days with one night camping. Day one will have two "major" rapids with each being a pretty true class 3. Beautiful scenery especially Goat Lick and you will see many mountain goats. Day two will be more consistent rapids once below Moccasin Creek. Above Moccasin Creek is really slow (Nayack Flats) but really good fishing. Below Moccasin Creek is the most pressure on the river due to consistent rapids between class 2-4 (4 being a little bit of a strecth. I few waves to surf along the way and Bonecrusher rapid is the best on this section. Nothing dangerous, just fun rapids. If you have to time and money do the Schafer Meadows section, it will be one you don't forget.

South Fork: Two options
1) Hire a backcountry horeman and have him haul our gear to confluenence of Danaher and Youngs Creek (Start of the South Fork). Getting in here requires a 20 mile walk/horse ride in and will cost at least $500 if not more. From there you will want to spend at least 5+ days on this river. Truely a once in a lifetime float. No real rapids, but probably the best Cutthoart/Bulltrout fishery in the lower 48. 50-75 fish day not uncommon. Very remote and difficult if anything goes wrong. Most people will take out at above Meadow Creek Gorge. This requires someone to pack out as well, about 4-5 miles back to the road. Meadow Creek Gorge is probably something most people don't want to consider and nearly impossible in a raft. I have seen a lot of kayakers to it, but would recommend for experts only
2) Cedar Creek to Twin Bridges
Probaly not worth the tirp. Getting there is a pain in the ass (60 mile washboard road) that will take at least 2 1/2 hours. Good float, but no rapids. Excellent fishing, but gets a lot of pressure in the summer. Beautiful scenery, but not worth coming all the way to Montana for. Only takes one day.
 

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I'm curious about the Meadow Creek Gorge too. Is this the preferred takeout b/c of the gorge below or do people just portage......4.5miles??? Or jus run the meat? SF sounds tits!

Nourse could never have done that. He paddles sit on tops down Filterplant all day. He's not even gnar. He only has 83 posts and has only been on mtnbuzz for a year. No way could this have happened!
Hey players. While I was innertubing the Filterplant last summer, I ran into a guy who has self-supported the SF including the gorge and backpacked through the BOB. He has all the beta. He told me to make sure everybody knows that this shitty little stream isn't worth doing. It's best to stay home and discuss oar options on the Buzz. His words.

Who wants to hit up Greeley's Super Sick Secret this Spring? Sick! Only cool people. No girls allowed. They can't handle this gnar.

E-
 
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