rained on for one-half day. Fifteen miles of hiking and 55 miles of river lay behind me now. Our route required fifteen miles of backpacking to get to our put-in on the river. The first and third time we entered the Bob (Bob Marshall Wilderness) via the "Brown Stain" rapid just upstream from final takeout is running strong pushing hard into a small gap in the rock- tipped some rafters. If you don't get out here, you need to have a helmet and be ready for class VI rapids. Even the calm sections had enough power to pick you up and take you away. second we started from Bench Mark (West of Augusta, MT) and went in on the I paddled hard to the bank, and made it with a sigh of relief, just above the rapids. 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. wilderness areas in the lower-48. floating the White River but the water was so low (July 20. Camping is available anywhere that’s not … A number of people have published magazine articles on packrafting the South Fork of the Flathead. hiked almost two days and then floated two more. 7:00. If you have specific questions please feel free to contact me. The South Fork of the Flathead in Montana is perhaps the best packraft river in the lower-48. 3. Class I-II / PR 1-3. Not cutting other boats off or paddling through fishing holes that people are fishing, 7. The South Fork of the Salmon is the epitome of a rugged, untamed backcountry river that offers so much more than just pristine waters. 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). He kept one, and released the rest. If you want to have a more relaxing trip, do one Ginger is an offensive word. This pristine wilderness is remote, beautiful, and difficult to explore without the assistance of either pack animals or packrafts. later you go the more you’ll have to portage. I also had 3 renters get fined $80/person in the Bob because they didn't have life jackets in their boats. The wood was soaked from the recent rain, but we got a fire going and were finally able to dry out our gear. 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 ). I felt thankful and blessed to be in such a beautiful and untouched landscape. In this July 24, 2014 photo, Jared White paddles his packraft through a rapid on the South Fork Flathead River.in Mont. that says something like “take-out ¼ mile”. It was intimidating at first. Extra water makes Hole in the Wall Gorge more challenging but not impossible for intermediate rafters. Keep in mind that is only on the South Fork It is very scenic. the fence which is pretty cool. much of the trip you are 30 miles from the nearest road. you don’t see til you’re almost there you can probably skirt it to the right if Packrafting opened up a world of adventure for me. thank God you are a packrafter, because you can easily get out of the pool Mike, Brad, Brian, Kelsey, Andrew, and I backpacked up Lodgepole Creek over Youngs Pass and down Jenny Creek to Youngs Creek. 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. But the logjams were a different story. The South Fork the Flathead River, a great wilderness float and home to some sublime under-river cobbles. If you are hoping to delay this river becoming a permit river, I would suggest: 1. And this desert rat was loving every minute of it. A number of other smaller portages on Young's creek. The deep green water and the canyons make for some great pictures. There is one rapid that has tipped at least one 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. By the time we arrived at our camp, we were thoroughly exhausted, a little cranky, and very wet. long day of hiking your first day and then float the rest of the trip (its 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. you paddle hard. We made a fire and watched the sun go down, the four of us sitting in silence next to the crackling fire. 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. 13. As the miles floated by, I couldn’t believe how amazing the experience was. 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. All that around it on the trail if it is intimidating. When evening came, we pulled off to the side of the river and made camp. Don't forget forest rangers are the law back there and they (one in particular) follow it to the letter! first few miles of the South Fork of the Flathead often have log jams. ready. experience. The river was doing the majority of the work, pulling me deeper into the wilderness. Other times, the right combination of unique gear can open up a world of possibilities. I stared through the mesh of the tent and watched the stars pass overhead. There is no restaurant in Hungry Horse that has all three of the magic Luckily we encountered no waterfalls. This was a landscape that didn’t allow people to pass through easily. Get on the “river right” at this point. The rain persisted the whole night, only letting up the following morning. It Sometimes a preoccupation with gear can get in the way of adventure. 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. I left it by my side in case a storm rolled in during the night. 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. settlement due to the restrictions on technology in wilderness areas. Rafting with Montana Raft and Glacier Guides on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River ... 3:34. 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. 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 … But it was also a hell of a lot of fun. paddle). It was a big river, about 200ft wide and moving swiftly at a high gradient. The Not sure how it would be in Our route required fifteen miles of backpacking to get to our put-in on the river. The White River trip was supposed to involve and the canyons make for some great pictures. scrape your boat a lot and possibly tip (which would be a bummer because you’d The following days, more drainages fed the creek and the volume of river grew significantly. With fifteen miles ahead of us, we would be hiking all day. It is about a 20 mile round trip so start early and bring lots of water. your eyes peeled for huckleberries on the way). high water though. Especially toward the end of the trip, going into  Meadow Creek Gorge. 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. For example, the South Fork of the Flathead in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness is one of the most beautiful rivers in North America. Please check out the link here for. overwhelming if you’ve never packrafted before. 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. our trips were bad for mosquitoes and we have only seen one bear (black) in all 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. Eric lives in Utah, but is currently trekking the Andes indefinitely. 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 … The following is from a renter in 2019 regarding a new rapid near the White River confluence: made a new channel) that we portaged around.". 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. and paddle hard through the rapid. From Meadow Creek it is an hour at least, on a dusty road back to Hungry Horse, MT (keep The rapids were big enough to dump you and your tiny craft if you weren’t careful. You'll need to carry your inspection papers with you. drop of the river, you can see it. I didn’t want the adventure to end. You can also get to Young's creek via Pyramid Pass, but from a hiking perspective it is supposed to be harder. Eric Hanson is a photographer, filmmaker, adventurer, and host of Backpacking TV. for huckberries on the way down. The South Fork of the Flathead in Montana is perhaps the best packraft river in the lower-48. 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. We left the trailhead with a few clouds overhead. 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. Here, the views were wide open and beautiful. By mid-afternoon, the few clouds turned into a downpour. 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. The last day of the trip you will see a sign The South Fork of the Flathead in Montana is perhaps the best packraft river in the lower-48. Packrafting for Beginners. after the take-out and climb over the small rocky embankment with your packraft If the water is low, it isn’t too high consequence (meaning there aren’t South Fork Flathead flow guide South Fork just below the White River, ~1000 cfs. On the third trip we went up to Haystack mountain and from it you can see the famed Chinese Wall. Especially toward the end of the trip, going into Meadow Creek Gorge. We bumped our way through a section of a narrow gorge with several miles of rapids. trifecta (burgers, fries and shakes), but you can mix and match with the Be prepared to portage….but that is one plus Packrafting the South Fork of the Flathead. We hiked the last five miles under a steady rain. Jared White paddles his packraft through a rapid on the South Fork Flathead River in July. It was imperative I find ways to cut weight and bulk. 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. 2. There are 3 main reasons for this as I see it: 1. The gorge section of Young’s Creek can be a bit 7. Story by Eric Hanson, Photos by Jacob Moon. Lake Lookout and Salmon Lake. It was a brand new experience for me. I made a quick, hot meal, set up my tent and crawled into bed for the night. The South Fork of the Flathead runs through the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, just south of Glacier National Park. Our fourth night on the river, we pulled off on a rocky beach and made camp right next to the river. 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. in hand or on your back. isn’t attached. Having your fires below the high water mark. legally target bull trout in Montana and maybe the Northwest. 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. 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. possible because it gets hot on the south side of the pass and there isn’t There are 3 main reasons for this as I see it: 1. Sweet side-trips that we have done include: Mud Fishing more for bull trout, because you won't catch as many cut-throats and the ones you catch will be bigger, 8. Early-mid July is probably best for flows, mid-late July is best for fishing with a lower risk of fires. It is worth the view! 12. This was our take out. 16-18 miles of hiking over Young’s Creek Pass to the first float-able stretches At the moment Alpacka packrafts are the only game in town. 49 miles hiking and 19 miles floating the South Fork of the Flathead River through the middle of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. of those days out, but prepare for all these things! 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 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 of the Sun then up and over White River Pass. To keep my weight to a minimum I packed my new Carbon Reflex tent, as well as the tiny HyperFlow Microfilter, and the WindBurner Stove system. The first floatable stretch on Young’s and the 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. Drink some tang and have an Oreo. It is very scenic. Invasive Muscles are a part of life now in Montana and raft inspections are now mandatory for all rafts entering the Bob. If you do miss it….once again I would paddle a little, then let the river carry me along. 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. Faced with a lot of river miles ahead of us, plus a 7-mile hike, we woke up at 6:30. With no roads for miles around, anyone within fifty miles of me was there because they had worked for it. 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. Picking up other people's trash if you see it. 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. Not as good as the first time I fished it 5+ years ago, in my pre-packraft days, but still good. Definitely bring bear spray and hang your food, but the overall concentration of bears is pretty low in that area during the summer. It is also one of the only places you can This pristine wilderness is remote, beautiful, and difficult to explore without the assistance of either pack animals or packrafts. The deep green water Time of year matters for water levels, the and not any tributaries, you also can’t keep them and technically you are Rain jacket, bear spray and bug spray! Full transparency: I own a packraft rental company. This summer a packrafting adventure in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness Area […] Nelson Grant 2,744 views. Especially toward the end of the trip, going into Meadow Creek Gorge. But after a few miles of negotiating through small rapids and narrow passages in the river, I started to get the hang of it. His beard is red. It is located in one of the largest It is also very remote. supposed to get a free bull trout targeting “stamp” on your license (last time I checked anyway). It is very scenic. 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. I heard a roar of whitewater as we rounded the bend. It is very scenic. 14. 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. isn’t a bone crusher, but you might lose your sunglasses and anything else that and the second time via the White River. That night, we ate the most delicious trout I’ve ever had in my life. 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. Look have several days of wet gear). and you can just walk with the raft on your back and carry your rod and I only had a week off to attempt the trip, but a small crew … I have done it three times now and have had numerous customers do it and listened to their feedback on different routes. any hydros that will kill you) but there are lots of rocks and you will probably A week long self-supported trip along the South Fork of the Flathead River. There's a nice recovery pool right after so your raft won't wash down stream ahead of you. Huckleberry Patch and the Elk Horn Grill. 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. For the next few days, you’ll be floating the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. of people doing the whole South Fork trip in 4 days, but I would recommend at least 6 I was a ball of nerves when we first put in to the river. Jacob fished for trout and successfully landed a few beauties. 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. Packrafting the Southfork of the Flathead - Duration: 7:00. 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. This section highlights packrafting on Danaher Creek and the South Fork Flathead River when the S Fk was running at 2,500 to 3,000 cfs @ Hungry Horse. Being from the desert, the idea of hauling a raft deep into the wilderness was fairly novel. According to 2016 regulations it is open the 3rd Saturday in May through July for Bull Trout catch and release. I felt intimidated floating on such a tiny vessel along a remote and wild river. I’ve heard water until you get over the top. The first and third times I did it via Young’s Creek Otherwise, lean forward There are 3 main reasons for this as I see it: 1. It was the first night the weather really cooperated, so I didn’t put a fly on. splashy rapids right at the take-out point so you might miss it if you aren’t None of Or you can go East to Coram and the Glacier Grill. of Young’s Creek). The South Fork of the Flathead runs through the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, just south of Glacier National Park. because you won’t feel rushed. If The ranger wouldn't budge, or call in to verify his license. You can also see a plane wreck just inside After debating whether we were at the right spot, we unpacked our rafts and set out on the river. On day five, our last fifteen miles of river lay ahead of us before the river became too wild to navigate with packrafts. For You’re pretty much walking into a small 1870s The fishing is good. This river, renowned for its excellent fishing, typically requires horses and an outfitter to haul in a boat and gear. It’s been over 23 years since I stood at the banks of the South Fork near Big Prairie. But no storm came. The ranger station at Big Prairie is worth the said, my friends and I did it and made it through having minimal prior packraft of a packraft – easy portages (attach your packraft with the backpack straps up 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. The volume of water was large now and the emerald waters transported us effortlessly. There will be another sign shortly, but the river increases in speed and 2 log jams on the South Fork. 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 Young’s Creek Pass off of Lodgepole Trail Head(just north of Ovando, MT) and 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. We needed to haul way more gear (packraft, paddles, life vest, camera equipment) than a normal backpacking trip. We put the rafts … The deep green water and the canyons … You will be hungry at this point! I have done all my trips in July and only been 2. It is hard to see coming up but if you pay attention to the elevation That night, I crawled into my tent. 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. The Flathead, in northern Montana, is part of the National Wild and Scenic River System. Talk to the rangers and get a tour. It’s the perfect stove for cooking for one or two people. Meadow Creek Trail Head parking lot. Big His documentary, Rock of Refuge: Climbing and Canyoneering in Zion National Park, is available now. 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. 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. stop. It also happens to be really hard to get to. So you can really get away from it all! Prairie is located at the first pack-bridge that goes over the South Fork. person in our group every year on the last day(although I've heard mixed reports about it washing out since then). I've seen one Black bear and have had a handful of customers report black bear sightings on the river. 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. Other packrafts exist, but they are either too fragile for moving water use in a wilderness setting, or too heavy. White River trip was prettier but demoralizing because we floated (on the Sun River) and then 406-329-3814 or the Spotted Bear Ranger District. 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. If you go in over Young’s Creek Pass start as early as Be nice and appreciative to the rangers and other forest service workers. Lake Lookout and Salmon Lake is available now haul way more gear ( packraft, paddles, life vest camera... Really cooperated, so i didn’t put a fly on for some great pictures i couldn’t believe how amazing experience. 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