By Amanda May
Northwest Montana is home to glacier country and all its rivers. Take a vacation in this part of the state to explore the clean pure waters by fishing, rafting or boating.
Multiple forks of rivers run through this wild part of Montana, flowing pristine through Glacier National Park and many miles of Montana state forest. You can access the following river areas from Kalispell, Whitefish or Columbia Falls.
The Flathead is a glacial river made up of three branches: the North, South and Middle Forks. They all run extremely cold, having just melted off the massive ice masses here in glacier country. The South and Middle Forks are especially chilly!
North Fork of the Flathead River
Beginning in Canada, north of Glacier National Park, the North Fork of the Flathead heads south along the western border of the park. Passing Polebridge, this medium-sized river is clear, cold and great for fly-fishing. Floating trips are another fun way to explore the North Fork, but check in with local authorities because special regulations apply to this river.
South Fork of Flathead River
Deep in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the South Fork is one of the most unspoiled in all of Montana. It has its beginning 40 miles into this wilderness area, which is like Glacier National Park’s southern twin. To reach the headwater, you’ll need to backpack, fly or horseback ride in. Cars are just not an option. Guides for fishing and rafting are recommended for the South Fork of the Flathead.
Middle Fork of Flathead River
Sixty miles northwest of the South Fork’s headwaters, the Middle Forkk is born in the Great Bear section of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. When it leaves the wilderness area, it forms the southwest limit of Glacier National Park. The Middle Fork runs clear and has outstanding scenery. Check for the river’s regulations and wilderness regulations before exploring.
Rafting in the Flathead
The Middle Fork is one of the most challenging, if not dangerous forks of the Flathead. The whitewater rapids here are classified between Class III to Class V. Guides are recommended because there are some tight turns, dangerous chutes and lots of tumbling and churning whitewater. Despite its challenges, the Middle Fork is the most popular of the three forks amongst fishermen and adventure seekers.