Flathead River

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by DrNed, Dec 7, 2016.

  1. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go

    Messages:
    680
    Location:
    Utah
    I've got my sights set on doing a float trip next summer.

    Ideally, I'll get my number called in the Smith River lottery.

    If not, I'm working on some back up plans. One of which is
    the Flathead River in Montana.

    I'm considering the North Fork and the main line of the Flathead.

    The main line of the river goes from the confluence of the North & Middle Forks
    to Flathead Lake. It looks like a beautiful stretch of river, but looking
    on maps it seems to be within spitting distance of highway 2 and
    within the city boundaries of Kalispell.

    I'm wondering if anyone has floated this stretch and if there is camping
    available along the river between Blankenship Bridge and
    Flathead Lake?
     
  2. River

    River Member

    Messages:
    404
    Location:
    Idaho
    If you're comfortable with Class II+ and avoiding strainers, float from the border down to Blankenship bridge on the N Fk. It's a great 3 day trip.
     
  3. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go

    Messages:
    680
    Location:
    Utah
    I've been able to find much info on floating the North Fork - looks great! So I want to add a couple days
    by continuing to Flathead Lake, which looks to be another 50 miles. So I'm wondering about camping through that stretch.

    When you did the North Fork, what was the bear situation like? I realize bear canisters will be necessary but one site
    I read made it sound like when you get off the river, set a plate for the bears too 'cause there going to join you.

    What is the river access like at the Canadian border? Easy to get to? Any weird stipulations being at the border?
    How did you work a shuttle? Your personal experience is greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!
     
  4. Brendan S

    Brendan S Member

    Messages:
    69
  5. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go

    Messages:
    680
    Location:
    Utah
    For anybody interested - I was able to get in touch with someone from the forest service in the Flathead area and I was told no camping along the Flathead from Blankenship bridge to Flathead lake due to 1. High cliffs 2. What isn't high cliffs is privately owned.
     
    River likes this.
  6. River

    River Member

    Messages:
    404
    Location:
    Idaho
    It's been about 15 years since I floated that stretch. That was back before bear canisters were common. I don't recall doing anything special beyond leaving a clean camp. We didn't have any problems.

    The border launch didn't require anything special. It is strange to stand at the old crossing and have no one around. We had enough vehicles to shuttle ourselves. Expect washboard!
     
  7. Kishenehn

    Kishenehn Member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Bozeman, Montana
    I've spent a fair amount of time that way and can try answering any other questions. (The name I chose here is from an old Glacier ranger station on the North Fork about 4 river miles south of the border.)

    The start point for the trip is just south of the Canadian border, so there are no issues there. The border crossing itself was closed back in the 90s, but the Border Patrol guys still hang out up there a lot and use the old port of entry as a base.

    There's a pretty high bear density in the North Fork but encounters/conflicts along the immediate river corridor in midsummer are aren't common. Definitely have bear spray and appropriate food storage along, but beyond that it's not really a concern.

    A lot of people who only have one vehicle will just leave it at the border and hitchhike back to retrieve it at the end of the trip. North of Polebridge, there isn't much traffic on that road, but the odds of a passing driver picking you up are very high. Alternatively, you could just ask around at Polebridge; you can often find somebody there who can help do a shuttle for a fee. You'll definitely want to stop there anyway for the famous baked goods!

    Though it's not something that people seem to do, you could probably add a fourth day to the trip by going down the main Flathead as far as Columbia Falls, and taking out at the fishing access point there.

    All in all, it's a great trip ... good water and mostly unspoiled country. I love it up there!
     
    Outdoor_Fool, DrNed and River like this.
  8. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go

    Messages:
    680
    Location:
    Utah
    Is it possible to make it a longer trip by starting in Canada and floating across the border?
     
  9. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go

    Messages:
    680
    Location:
    Utah
    Washboard on the road or the river?
     
  10. Kishenehn

    Kishenehn Member

    Messages:
    50
    Location:
    Bozeman, Montana
    Not these days -- there's no legal mechanism to clear customs in the valley anymore, and since 9/11 the Border Patrol has gotten very aggressive about chasing down and charging recreationists and others who attempt casual border crossings. It's too bad, because there's some great country north of the border that's very rarely visited.
     
    Outdoor_Fool likes this.
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