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