Bob Marshall 2016. No longer...

I’ve canceled this plan for this year at least. I think I’m going to the Roundup and do something around there instead.


I’m planning to float the “South to North loop” in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in mid June of next year. I’m looking for people to join me. Here is a video Foreest McCarthy made of the route: (Nice soundtrack, Forrest.) Dave Chenault had this to say about it: “If I had to do one trip over and over for the rest of my life, I’d probably pick this one.” Here is his route description: “nflate straight away and float the South Fork of the Sun down to the confluence with the West Fork. Take out and hike up to and over White River pass. Inflate again at the White, float down to the South Fork of the Flathead, and then down to Mid Creek. Hike up Mid Creek, taking the south branch, to the saddle between Mid and Rambler Creeks. Follow the ridge crest east towards the flank of Silvertip Mountain, before traversing south towards the steam and finding a way through the cliffbands. This will require short stretches of class 3 scrambling. Gain the ridge south of Silvertip, and traverse east staying high until you reach the pass between the Silvertip massif and the Wall Creek cliffs. Drop down to the trail by Juliet Creek, and follow it over Larch Hill pass and down to the North Fork of the Sun at Gates Park. Float south, then take out and hike the South Fork of the Sun back to the TH.”

I will be driving to the trailhead. If you are interested, send a pm or email me at

Hey there Brad - me again. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your plan for the Bob next summer is unlikely to work out in July/August. I tried to do a similar trip this past summer in early July and water levels were already too low. The good news is that the South and Middle Fork still had water (we ended up running the Middle Fork of the Flathead at the tail end of runnable flows). If you are looking to do a trip in the Bob or the Greater Yellowstone you should aim for mid-June. On the off chance that we have a huge snow year it may be possible in mid to late July but that hasn’t been the case in the past few years. Keep an eye on the Snotel sites throughout the winter, that will give you an idea of how things are shaping up with snowpack.

Thanks! Helpful advice. That’s one reason I post trip ideas on sites like this - save me from my ignorance.

I would disagree with Theresa on this. Last year was more exceptional than the annual snotel percentiles tell. Meltoff was very early, which is why the Bob rivers went down so low so fast. 2015 was the first time I’d ever floated the South Fork Flathead in June, as ordinarily it’s big, muddy, cold, and scary. In 2014 the South Fork was still at 5000 cfs the second week of July, and the Middle Fork was runable (2000 cfs) all the way into early August. The historical average for the South Fork Flathead on June 20th is 7800 cfs, which is a rather exciting flow for most folks. Historical average for the North Fork Sun, same date, is 1330 which again makes things a bit hectic (in my book). Early July is the best bet for having enough water in the North Fork of the Sun and also having the South Fork of the Flathead be clear and not too big and intimidating. If you have to schedule vacation and buy plane tics months in advance it is the surest option.

In addition to watching snotel melt, watch the water-year summary charts and graphs from past years and compare them to flows as they develop in the spring. This will give you an idea as to how high a river will peak, and when the top of that curve will occur.

Thanks for the intel Dave. This is one thing I have yet to get used to, and is especially frustrating in the drought plagued west - having your trip completely dictated by the weather. Packrafting is more dependent on weather than any other sport I do, even skiing. In any case, this information is really helpful and I’ll put it to use.

Thanks Dave- you are the one with information on that area, so I defer to your advice… I hope that we see you at the Roundup down here in Jackson next summer and I hope your little family is doing well!

Will see you there Theresa. Hopefully the kid will be dialed on class 1 by then.

Brad, it is tenuous, no way around it. If you or anyone in your position can wait until mid-May to finalize dates you should have a good sense for what the water is going to do, but before that it’s a roll of the dice.

Thanks for the info