Bob Marshall/South Fork - Trip Report

Trip Report - South Fork of the Flathead - July 2013
Fredk and I started out from the trail head at the end of the road up Lodgepole Creek out of Ovando on the south side of the Bob. The parking lot was full of trucks and horse trailers, with no other cars. The trail immediately heads up towards Young’s Pass covering about 1,700 ft. elevation gain and 3 miles or so to the top. The climb was surprisingly easy, but not much of a view.

We then headed down north side of the mountain along Jenny Creek until we hit Young’s Creek. We continued until the Boulder Creek crossing where we camped. This was an OK place but there appeared to better campsites just past the crossing. This was about 13.5 miles. Young’s Creek was certainly float-able at Boulder Creek – but from the trail was saw that it later turns in to a tight-ish looking gorge with quite frothy looking whitewater and uncertain portages – certainly the more experienced could do it.

On the second day, we hiked 11 miles to where the trail crosses Young’s Creek just immediately above the confluence with Danaher and the start of the South Fork. About half way along this hike we passed a horse outfitter’s camp. The trail also afforded a good view of the Hole in the Wall cave in the north-facing escarpment above the creek.

We got our rafts out and floated about 8 miles downstream, a little below the first pack bridge. There is an outfitter’s camp back in the woods on the east side – their horses came over to check us out. The fishing was very good in this stretch of the river.

We encountered the only logjams that fully block the river at the counter clockwise turning horseshoe bend at mile 94 of the Three Forks of the Flathead Wild & Scenic River Float Guide, published by the Glacier Association.

It rained all morning of the third day, so we only made 15 miles. The fourth day we paddled another 15 miles taking out at the Mid-Creek Takeout, then hiked around the gorge, across the bridge, along the road, and then camped at Cedar Flats. The signage warning of the gorge and the marking of the take out at Mid-Creek is poor – be vigilant! Watch for a sign on river right along the shore, then a big one up high on the cliff above the mouth of the gorge. We encounter several other parties fishing or camping along the river, but only saw one other raft.

This was my first extended pack rafting trip, and Fredk’s second. We were out 7/6/13 thru 7/10/13. We both purchased our boats last fall and have had limited whitewater experience before this. Fredk’s GPS showed a water current speed of 2.5 MPH. The river level at the Twin Creek gauge showed 2,800 CFS on Day 1, dropping to 1,900 on Day 5. This was about 1,000 CFS below the 46-year average for this time period.

Nonetheless, the water level was perfect for our ability. There was plenty of water for fun rapids and we mostly dragged bottom only when taking a secondary river braid to avoid difficult rapids or sweepers. At every turn on the river, there are short Class 2 rapids, mostly made up of standing waves and turbulence from side channels merging in, back eddies, and current bouncing off the cliff walls. There was some boulder dodging, but very few nasty looking holes, and never any need to eddy behind boulders to rest or plot out a route thru the rest of the rapids… Something like every fifth curve would have bigger water, some at Class 3.

At Mile 63, the map marks Rapids, with signs up river from that warning about dangerous rapids. So, we cautiously scouted the curve at Mile 63 and found – not much. We approached/scouted the next several turns cautiously, but were left wondering where were the dangerous rapids. They must come out at other water levels.

In summary – a great river to break into pack rafting.

Glad it went good for you rockous! I hope to do it next year while I’m up in Montana

Let me know if you are going to make it up here next year and are looking for partners Infrastructure. I would do this trip again.

Hey Infrastructure, Rockhous, all,

I’d do this trip again in a heart beat. Let me know if you’d like to plan a trip for the summer of 2014.

This time I’d like to do a little more fishing. The one day on this trip I did get to fish I caught a big beautiful West Slope Cutthroat Trout on just about every other cast. Fly fisherman pay thousands of dollars to get out to fish this pristine wilderness river, and we can hike in and float down it from the headwaters for next to nothing.

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Hi Infrastucture, I’ll likely do it again next summer. Send an email to if you want to plan a trip. -fredk

float down it from the headwaters for next to nothing.
golden slot