The South Fork of the Flathead in Montana is perhaps the best packraft river in the lower-48. The ranger wouldn't budge, or call in to verify his license. of people doing the whole South Fork trip in 4 days, but I would recommend at least 6 It was a brand new experience for me. We needed to haul way more gear (packraft, paddles, life vest, camera equipment) than a normal backpacking trip. This was a landscape that didn’t allow people to pass through easily. That night, I crawled into my tent. White River trip was prettier but demoralizing because we floated (on the Sun River) and then His documentary, Rock of Refuge: Climbing and Canyoneering in Zion National Park, is available now. Especially toward the end of the trip, going into  Meadow Creek Gorge. Please check out the link here for. Having your fires below the high water mark. According to 2016 regulations it is open the 3rd Saturday in May through July for Bull Trout catch and release. It was the first night the weather really cooperated, so I didn’t put a fly on. I heard a roar of whitewater as we rounded the bend. We put the rafts … You’re pretty much walking into a small 1870s That night, we ate the most delicious trout I’ve ever had in my life. Jacob fished for trout and successfully landed a few beauties. "Brown Stain" rapid just upstream from final takeout is running strong pushing hard into a small gap in the rock- tipped some rafters. The fishing is good. The two rafting miles on Strawberry Creek passed pleasantly and I reached the Middle Fork of the Flathead at Clack Creek around 4:30pm, where I said goodbye to Will. Fishing more for bull trout, because you won't catch as many cut-throats and the ones you catch will be bigger, 8. 7:00. Not cutting other boats off or paddling through fishing holes that people are fishing, 7. There are 3 main reasons for this as I see it: 1. With fifteen miles ahead of us, we would be hiking all day. drop of the river, you can see it. Or you can go East to Coram and the Glacier Grill. Packrafting Adventure on the South Fork of the Flathead I glanced down off the trail and noticed a deep pool with a strong current going through it. first few miles of the South Fork of the Flathead often have log jams. If you want to have a more relaxing trip, do one Nelson Grant 2,744 views. It's important to keep in mind that the river changes annually and there may be log jams and new rapids in places where there weren't before. 12. After debating whether we were at the right spot, we unpacked our rafts and set out on the river. By the time we arrived at our camp, we were thoroughly exhausted, a little cranky, and very wet. By mid-afternoon, the few clouds turned into a downpour. Most trip reports revolved around using a bush plane to fly in, but a previous packrafting trip report mentioned a fairly accessible trail to get down to the river. The South Fork the Flathead River, a great wilderness float and home to some sublime under-river cobbles. Packrafting the Southfork of the Flathead - Duration: 7:00. possible because it gets hot on the south side of the pass and there isn’t The deep green water and the canyons make for some great pictures. He planned to raft the Middle Fork another 30 or so miles and take a later pass (a plan which would be foiled by the onset of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from Will’s recent tick bite ). The rapids were big enough to dump you and your tiny craft if you weren’t careful. Camping is available anywhere that’s not … Packrafting Montana's South Fork Flathead River Listen to the River, from Wild Confluence Films, is the story of a classic summertime river adventure gone awry. Even the calm sections had enough power to pick you up and take you away. You can also see a plane wreck just inside Music from Hands Upon Black Earth (to reflect the dark, cold, wet periods of the trek) and Chris Cunningham (to reflect the cheery, sunny, warm periods of the trek). Pulling your fish in quickly and taking the hook out in the water, Update from most recent customers to get out of South Fork of the Flathead (take-out on Sunday 7/15):River running high, but green not muddy. The Flathead, in northern Montana, is part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. There is no restaurant in Hungry Horse that has all three of the magic There are 3 main reasons for this as I see it: 1. Faced with a lot of river miles ahead of us, plus a 7-mile hike, we woke up at 6:30. that says something like “take-out ¼ mile”. There is one rapid that has tipped at least one It is very scenic. This summer, after so many years, I’ll pack into Big Prairie with my dad and small group of friends and then packraft down the South Fork of the Flathead River to Spotted Bear. Fifteen miles of hiking and 55 miles of river lay behind me now. Fires are a major consideration...they can happen at any time, but are likely at the end of July and throughout August- smokey air and trail closures being the main problems resulting from them. the fence which is pretty cool. Seeing the South Fork of the Flathead River for the first time in 2011, was really where the idea of starting a packraft rental company began. Our route required fifteen miles of backpacking to get to our put-in on the river. I stared through the mesh of the tent and watched the stars pass overhead. His beard is red. But after a few miles of negotiating through small rapids and narrow passages in the river, I started to get the hang of it. The South Fork of the Flathead runs through the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, just south of Glacier National Park. It is very scenic. I didn’t want the adventure to end. With no roads for miles around, anyone within fifty miles of me was there because they had worked for it. hiked almost two days and then floated two more. On the third trip we went up to Haystack mountain and from it you can see the famed Chinese Wall. thank God you are a packrafter, because you can easily get out of the pool 7. Talk to the rangers and get a tour. Sometimes a preoccupation with gear can get in the way of adventure. Unfortunately most of those articles are more on the inspiring side and less on the practical, which is what this article sets out to do. 2. The South Fork of the Flathead runs through the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, just south of Glacier National Park. in hand or on your back. Hole in the Wall gorge on Young's creek has a strainer tree in the middle of a rapid, but the Forest Service put up a sign and you can portage around it and it may be possible to paddle around it as well. Six Montana paddlers took a five day backpacking and packrafting trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to float about 56 miles of the South Fork of the Flathead River in mid-July. You can easily hike This pristine wilderness is remote, beautiful, and difficult to explore without the assistance of either pack animals or packrafts. We left the trailhead with a few clouds overhead. The days had turned into a rhythm; get up, make breakfast, drink coffee, float the river, make camp, make fire, eat dinner, stargaze, go to sleep. I have done it three times now and have had numerous customers do it and listened to their feedback on different routes. We made a fire and watched the sun go down, the four of us sitting in silence next to the crackling fire. And this desert rat was loving every minute of it. For water until you get over the top. Don't forget forest rangers are the law back there and they (one in particular) follow it to the letter! settlement due to the restrictions on technology in wilderness areas. experience. Picking up other people's trash if you see it. I felt thankful and blessed to be in such a beautiful and untouched landscape. So you can really get away from it all! Young’s Creek Pass off of Lodgepole Trail Head(just north of Ovando, MT) and the He kept one, and released the rest. Three days of up-stream hiking set the stage for four days of floating back to the trailhead with the unexpected twist of needing to escape a rapidly growing wildfire by foot. It was intimidating at first. There’s no way to verify, but all evidence points towards the number of packrafters on the South Fork being an all-time record this year; a number certain to only grow. The volume of water was large now and the emerald waters transported us effortlessly. The gorge section of Young’s Creek can be a bit later you go the more you’ll have to portage. But it was also a hell of a lot of fun. It was a big river, about 200ft wide and moving swiftly at a high gradient. It was imperative I find ways to cut weight and bulk. Before continuing our float down the South Fork, we took a side trip to float the White, which is known for its limestone rocks and fun whitewater stretch. But no storm came. legally target bull trout in Montana and maybe the Northwest. Here in Montana, as I hiked the last few miles of our adventure, I couldn’t help but feel how this wouldn’t be possible without the right gear. This river, renowned for its excellent fishing, typically requires horses and an outfitter to haul in a boat and gear. scrape your boat a lot and possibly tip (which would be a bummer because you’d On day five, our last fifteen miles of river lay ahead of us before the river became too wild to navigate with packrafts. It is very scenic. There are 3 main reasons for this as I see it: 1. The South Fork of the Salmon is the epitome of a rugged, untamed backcountry river that offers so much more than just pristine waters. The Flathead River (Salish: ntx̣ʷetkʷ, ntx̣ʷe ), in the northwestern part of the U.S. state of Montana, originates in the Canadian Rockies to the north of Glacier National Park and flows southwest into Flathead Lake, then after a journey of 158 miles (254 km), empties into the Clark Fork. have several days of wet gear). Bears- customers ask fairly frequently about bears and how to prepare for them....I honestly haven't heard of anyone encountering a grizzly on the main trail or on the river. Our fourth night on the river, we pulled off on a rocky beach and made camp right next to the river. 3. The ranger station at Big Prairie is worth the 2. 14. I’ve heard The first and third times I did it via Young’s Creek The deep green water and the canyons … South Fork Flathead flow guide South Fork just below the White River, ~1000 cfs. Mike, Brad, Brian, Kelsey, Andrew, and I backpacked up Lodgepole Creek over Youngs Pass and down Jenny Creek to Youngs Creek. Here, the views were wide open and beautiful. of those days out, but prepare for all these things! There's a nice recovery pool right after so your raft won't wash down stream ahead of you. our trips were bad for mosquitoes and we have only seen one bear (black) in all The rain persisted the whole night, only letting up the following morning. Especially toward the end of the trip, going into Meadow Creek Gorge. It was a steep downhill slide to the pool, but if I had learned anything about backcountry fishing, it was that pools like this are worth fishing. South Fork Flathead River packrafting Jul 31, 2014 Six Montana paddlers took a five day backpacking and packrafting trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to float about 56 miles of the South … Story by Eric Hanson, Photos by Jacob Moon. The rained on for one-half day. I was a ball of nerves when we first put in to the river. This summary might be more than you want to know, but hopefully it will be informative if you are actually planning on doing the trip. Class I-II / PR 1-3. after the take-out and climb over the small rocky embankment with your packraft Regarding  shuttling- after publishing this blog, I found out that there is indeed a shuttle service that there are a couple shuttle services that run vehicles around the Bob. Other packrafts exist, but they are either too fragile for moving water use in a wilderness setting, or too heavy. Sweet side-trips that we have done include: Mud The wood was soaked from the recent rain, but we got a fire going and were finally able to dry out our gear. I've seen one Black bear and have had a handful of customers report black bear sightings on the river. The river was doing the majority of the work, pulling me deeper into the wilderness. around it on the trail if it is intimidating. A number of other smaller portages on Young's creek. Early-mid July is probably best for flows, mid-late July is best for fishing with a lower risk of fires. paddle). for huckberries on the way down. A number of people have published magazine articles on packrafting the South Fork of the Flathead. In 2016, I did this four-day trip, floating some of the most pristine, remote waters in the lower 48 states, and hiking through the largest roadless wilderness. Otherwise, lean forward I also had 3 renters get fined $80/person in the Bob because they didn't have life jackets in their boats. You will be hungry at this point! None of and paddle hard through the rapid. All that overwhelming if you’ve never packrafted before. your eyes peeled for huckleberries on the way). We had camped at the confluence that forms the South Fork and as we ate fish tacos and smoked pipes, we pondered what might lie down-river. Be prepared to portage….but that is one plus I made a quick, hot meal, set up my tent and crawled into bed for the night. The South Fork of the Flathead River in Montana is one of those classic packrafting trips my husband and I had been scheming about for years. I considered the classic PocketRocket 2 stove to get my pack weight even lighter, but I have fallen in love with the WindBurner for its efficient fuel consumption and packability. It’s the perfect stove for cooking for one or two people. trifecta (burgers, fries and shakes), but you can mix and match with the I've heard there was some significant blow down on the pass in 2019 and I'm not sure how much of it got cleared on the trail by the end of the season. The first floatable stretch on Young’s and the Meadow Creek Trail Head parking lot. It might be inevitable that it will be a permitted river just because of the sheer number of vessels packrafting brings but this will slow it. Packrafting for Beginners. If you have specific questions please feel free to contact me. Huckleberry Patch and the Elk Horn Grill. long day of hiking your first day and then float the rest of the trip (its But the logjams were a different story. We bumped our way through a section of a narrow gorge with several miles of rapids. and you can just walk with the raft on your back and carry your rod and If I missed the pullout and went into the rapids, I would be cast passed the point of no return, hurled into an exit-less gorge with a series of challenging whitewater rapids that was well beyond my skill to navigate. said, my friends and I did it and made it through having minimal prior packraft supposed to get a free bull trout targeting “stamp” on your license (last time I checked anyway). Be nice and appreciative to the rangers and other forest service workers. The following days, more drainages fed the creek and the volume of river grew significantly. This was our take out. From Meadow Creek it is an hour at least, on a dusty road back to Hungry Horse, MT (keep Get on the “river right” at this point. and not any tributaries, you also can’t keep them and technically you are If you do miss it….once again I paddled hard to the bank, and made it with a sigh of relief, just above the rapids. and the canyons make for some great pictures. The Middle Fork of the Flathead had never been on my radar before, but a quick Google revealed a gem of a river that actually inspired the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act back in 1968. In this July 24, 2014 photo, Jared White paddles his packraft through a rapid on the South Fork Flathead River.in Mont. Every twenty minutes we had to pull to the side of the creek and portage around strainers and massive piles of fallen trees barricading the river. Full transparency: I own a packraft rental company. stop. There will be another sign shortly, but the river increases in speed and The history of Idaho is deeply engulfed in exploration of rivers, as well as exploration and extraction of the resources that lie in the soils among them. Despite the calm appearance of the South Fork Flathead River at the moment this picture was taken, it was actually running at 8,000 cubic feet per second … you don’t see til you’re almost there you can probably skirt it to the right if It is also very remote. Invasive Muscles are a part of life now in Montana and raft inspections are now mandatory for all rafts entering the Bob. When evening came, we pulled off to the side of the river and made camp. 13. Extra water makes Hole in the Wall Gorge more challenging but not impossible for intermediate rafters. For example, the South Fork of the Flathead in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness is one of the most beautiful rivers in North America. If we put in too early, we might find ourselves plunging over a series of waterfalls or caught in one of the many logjams in the early portion of the river. Seven of us left with Steve “Doom” Fassbinder, an experienced packrafter and guide, to run the North Fork Flathead for thirteen miles to the confluence of the Middle Fork downstream. It is hard to see coming up but if you pay attention to the elevation The deep green water Other times, the right combination of unique gear can open up a world of possibilities. Ginger is an offensive word. It is about a 20 mile round trip so start early and bring lots of water. I only had a week off to attempt the trip, but a small crew … 2 log jams on the South Fork. Not sure how it would be in splashy rapids right at the take-out point so you might miss it if you aren’t You'll need to carry your inspection papers with you. Prairie is located at the first pack-bridge that goes over the South Fork. of Young’s Creek). It If Especially toward the end of the trip, going into Meadow Creek Gorge. because you won’t feel rushed. The South Fork of the Flathead River begins deep in the heart of Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, one of the nations largest designated wilderness areas. If the water is low, it isn’t too high consequence (meaning there aren’t The White River trip was supposed to involve It is also one of the only places you can You will hike out 3 miles from the take-out to the You can also put on the South River, a tributary to the Shenandoah, closer by in Waynesboro, but that will add some substantial distance to the packrafting portion. Jared White paddles his packraft through a rapid on the South Fork Flathead River in July. It is worth the view! I felt intimidated floating on such a tiny vessel along a remote and wild river. If you go in over Young’s Creek Pass start as early as The South Fork of the Flathead in Montana is perhaps the best packraft river in the lower-48. Packrafting opened up a world of adventure for me. On a different trip into the Bob we had to turn around and go back because my friend's fishing license had disappeared out of his pack. Sprawling more than 1.5 million acres, the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex (known to locals as “the Bob”), which also includes the Great Bear Wilderness and the Scapegoat Wilderness, is perhaps the wildest location in the lower 48 states. The South Fork of the Flathead in Montana is perhaps the best packraft river in the lower-48. second we started from Bench Mark (West of Augusta, MT) and went in on the I have done all my trips in July and only been We packed up our gear on the sunny river bank, letting everything dry out as much as possible before hauling it out the last three miles to our car. ready. isn’t a bone crusher, but you might lose your sunglasses and anything else that But when photographer Jacob Moon and his wife Natasha invited me to go packrafting on the South Fork of the Flathead, one of the world’s premier rivers, I couldn’t say no. Rain jacket, bear spray and bug spray! For the next few days, you’ll be floating the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Time of year matters for water levels, the Not as good as the first time I fished it 5+ years ago, in my pre-packraft days, but still good. Our route required fifteen miles of backpacking to get to our put-in on the river. You can also get to Young's creek via Pyramid Pass, but from a hiking perspective it is supposed to be harder. We hiked the last five miles under a steady rain. I left it by my side in case a storm rolled in during the night. South Fork of the Sun then up and over White River Pass. I would paddle a little, then let the river carry me along. Lake Lookout and Salmon Lake. Luckily we encountered no waterfalls. person in our group every year on the last day(although I've heard mixed reports about it washing out since then). A week long self-supported trip along the South Fork of the Flathead River. Eric lives in Utah, but is currently trekking the Andes indefinitely. isn’t attached. Rafting with Montana Raft and Glacier Guides on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River ... 3:34. The last day of the trip you will see a sign It’s been over 23 years since I stood at the banks of the South Fork near Big Prairie. 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