SF Flathead River TR - 6/17 thru 6/24/17

Just got off the Flathead and thought I would give a quick conditions report for everyone.

I went in from the Lodgepole TH over Young’s Pass and down to Babcock Creek were I put on and started floating. The trail had been cleared to the Jenny Creek / Young’s confluence and was in good shape. The rest of the hike to Babcock had moderate downfall and wasn’t too bad. After Babcock the downfall on the trail is horrendous and I would strongly recommend you put on at Babcock, or if you want to avoid a couple of log jams, put on at the next creek crossing below Babcock. I estimated Young’s was flowing around 1000cfs at Babcock and probably 2000cfs at the confluence of Young’s and Danaher. The micro narrows before the confluence were a blast at that level.

There was four or five easy portages on Young’s that required 5 minutes to drag the boat over rock bars, and one that required a full de-rig but still only took 15 minutes to get around. There was only one portage on the SF proper at Gordan Creek. I layed over at the White River and hiked to the Chinese wall and then floated the White back to camp. I estimated the White to be running around a 1000cfs and it was nothing short of SPECTACULAR at that level. It was six miles of splashy face shots the entire way. AMAZING! If the SF Flathead is epic, the White River is sublime.

Bugs were a minor nuisance until around the Black Bear packbridge, and then became an unstoppable hoard until I got off the river at Mid Creek. The Mid Creek exit is not obvious, I floated a half mile beyond it before I realized my mistake. Luckily the trail parallels the river from Mid Creek to Meadow Creek TH and it is not to much of a hassle to de-rig below Mid Creek and hike up to the trail. Don’t go to much further below Mid Creek as it narrows into a gorge and you definitely don’t want to be running that section unless you intend too.

I used Tommy at 4 Rivers shuttle to get my rig to Meadow Creek TH and he did exactly what and when he said he would. Would definitely recommend his services. It’s expensive, but it’s a hellva shuttle (300+ miles).

Hope this helps. What an amazing river through a spectacular wilderness.


Thanks for posting MS2. I have a similar route planned (in some ways) and I’m interested in a few more details about the White river if you’re willing to divulge. Particularly, I’m interested in where you put-in. Not so much the exact spot but more about how far up. You mentioned ‘6 miles.’ From my maps that looks the approximate distance from the SF up to the confluence of the NF White and the SF White. Is this correct?

Also, suspect that you did Haystack or WR Pass. I’m more interested in the NF White up between Larch hill and the Amphitheater, you didn’t perhaps head up that way did you?

Once again, thanks for the posting.


Hey Magic, more than happy to divulge. I hiked the North side trail up the White River to the confluence of the NF and SF, at which point I crossed the river (boat assisted), dropped my boat gear and continued up Haystack Mt to the Chinese wall. It took me 2 1/2 hours to hike the 6 miles up to the forks confluence, mostly because is was so scenic and not because of the downfall on the trail; although there was a moderate amount of downfall that had to be stepped over. Once I got back to my boat, it took only an hour to float back to the SF Flathead and camp. Total trip time one way to the wall was 5 hours. Total round trip time was 8 hours.

Unfortunately I don’t have any beta on NF White above the confluence. I wanted to spend another day and hike up the North Fork to the Brushy Park area, but decided to spend that time hiking and paddling around Big Salmon lake instead.

After looking at my notes, I noticed I misspoke about the portages on the SF proper. There are two portages on the SF, one at Gordon Creek and another somewhere below Gordon but before Big Prairie. Both are very easy to get around and did not require a de-rig.


How much did the shuttle cost you?

I know your question was directed to MS2, but just as a side note I called Tommy today and found out that he only shuttles vehicles, not people. I’m sure for many, from this site, that was a given. I’m from the hiking world and transitioning to the float world, so it was a surprise to me to find that he only shuttles vehicles.

Well, at least my thumb still works :slight_smile: . Can’t think of a trip to the Bob or Glacier, in the last few years, where I didn’t have to shuffle around a couple hundred miles by thumb.

(To MS2)
Thanks for the details. It really confirms some of the ideas I have been wrestling with.


Any photos?

Would love to see any from the confluence of Gordon Cr. and White R.

If outdoor skills were a trade, I’d be a hiker or a sherpa (but not a porter!). I’m headed back to the SF this year after doing it last year and I am totally hooked on this new application that blends with my hiking. Truthfully, pack rafting has completely run roughshod over hiking and it works with fly fishing too, so I love it.

Anyway, this post is only to say how much I appreciate your post. I like to read and watch videos of the South Fork and re-live my experience so that I can prepare for this year. 7 weeks! June 22nd I’ll be back on the MF, June 26th I’ll be back on the SF.

Thanks Mark (MS2).

Mark (hellkat)

Late June for both forks will likely feature massive flows and mobilized wood this year.

I enjoy big water but will probably wait until at least mid-late July to go for the Flathead reaches this year.