Bob Marshall packraft traffic

At the start of a trip this past weekend I had a brief but interesting conversation with one of the longer serving wilderness rangers. Suffice to say that the increase in packraft traffic in the last few years is definitely on their radar. He mentioned the visual impact of bright boats, which sort of makes sense. I did tell him that my boat and paddle are both red to aid in finding them should we ever become separated.

The issue he mentioned more emphatically was the increased impact of packrafters on other users. His example being that a half dozen packraft parties floating a given stretch over a morning might never see each other, but the fly fishers they float by experience a “crowded” river.

I thought this comment odd, as while the South Fork Flathead is on weekends in late July and early August popular by MT standards, it’s hardly crowded, and I don’t believe there are that many packrafters out there. Then I started thinking about who those fly fishers are, and it made sense.

Those fishers (at White River park, for instance) are either backpackers (or packrafters) who hiked 20+ miles in over a day or more, folks on a private float trip in big boats, or clients on a commercial big boat trip. Some folks in the second category pack in a Watermaster or a light IK by fair means, while more pay a packer a bunch of money to get dropped off at the waters edge. The commercial clients probably paid closer to 5 figures than 3 to sleep in wall tents, eat steak for dinner, and have a name brand last best place experience.

I assume it is this last group who might get frazzled about more river traffic, especially when they realize the folks in pool toys are doing their trip for the cost of gas and a days walk.

I find it hard to be sympathetic here, but its something worth keeping in mind.

That is interesting that packrafts are even on their radar. I have only heard of a handful of packrafters when traveling to different rivers across Montana, so if there is a concentration hiding within The Bob I would very surprised. That is still a trip I need to get planned and checked off the list. Perhaps we can all go as one big group as to avoid any inconvenience to the guided trips.

Interesting. I know some of the forest service folks here in NW MT - I’ll bring this up next time I speak with one of them.

I did a five day trip across the Bob from the southern to the northern border via the South Fork in July (see rockhaus trip report on this forum). We did not see any packrafters or any boats of any kind until we saw two kayakers who had just ran the Meadow Creek Gorge (after the Mid Creek takeout), which was towards the end of the trip. We saw a few fishermen who came from the Benchmark TH by horse 26 miles away from where we ran into them. They were friendly, in fact one of them gave me a little push off a rock bar I was slightly hung up on after we portaged around a log jam they were fishing.

CasperBandito, let me know if you are looking to put a group together for this trip. I can guide you for the price of gas and a days walk :wink:

Oh, and the trout fishing is world-class. I brought my fly rod and caught 14-18" West Slope cutthroat trout on about 1 out of every 5 casts.