South Fork Flathead Trip Report

My buddy Peter and I were looking for an achievable packrafting objective that fit within (his) timeframe between grad school and his first year teaching middle school. I originally had wanted a much longer trip and had grand visions or the “Grand Tour” proposed by Dave, but ultimately timing, water levels and desires lead us to a complete(ish) float of the South Fork, and we used two remaining days in his flight itinerary to do a quick hit on the North Fork.

We started at Monture Creek, and spent the first day wandering up towards Hahn Pass, and camped just north of the waterfall at an impacted horse camp near the stream. Temps and weather stayed this beautiful for the duration of the trip.

We went in with water levels reading about 1000 cfs, so we knew it would be bony, but decided to put in on Youngs Creek late the following afternoon, so we’d have a chance to float down to the headwaters. It was a gorgeous choice! Just enough water allowed us to scrape by with no damage to the boats, which is more than we can say for a group that had packed in a large oar raft and numerous pontoon floats and were struggling to make progress with the low water.

We camped about a mile or so into the South Fork proper, having covered about 12 miles of hiking up and over Hahn Pass and down the other side, and about 6 or so miles in the boat, for a long and rewarding day.

On the 3rd day we floated 25? miles of gorgeous river to the vicinity of Black Bear Creek, and enjoyed fresh trout shared with us by friendly fellow packrafters. The river was much busier than I had anticipated, largely due to commercial fishing/horsepacking traffic. Because I had been in the field with work the previous month and started this adventure 48 hours later, I didn’t have time to secure a bull trout catch card and a fishing license, the only regret of the trip. What a premier fishing destination I missed out on… this time :slight_smile:

The next morning (day 4) we continued our float all the way to Spotted Bear, another 25 or so miles, including our highlight of the trip, a descent of Meadow Creek Gorge. Beautiful, moderate whitewater and easy scouting (with one exception)made these four miles the best of the trip. It’d be worth coming back just to do this portion again, and again, and again… We were all smiles as we took our time scouting and running everything we could, and only walked around two short sections of river: one had a too many obstacles in the main current, the other looked like it would run well at higher water but was too tight, slotty and had a nasty drop into turbulent water. Overall the quality of the gorge was outstanding.

On the afternoon of day 4 we dried out gear on a stretch of cobble beach and started walking down the gravel road, and hitchhiked all the way to Kalispell with one, long ride by an employee of a fishing outfit.

We used the last of our time together to explore Glacier by car for a day, and then went for a quick overnight on the North Fork, hiking to the Canadian border and floating back to our car. We were sure to finish with treats at Polebridge mercantile on the way home.

Fantastic trip! I was amazed at the Bob, and am excited to explore it more by foot and boat in the coming boating seasons. Many thanks to Dave C. for his PR guidebook and prompt responses to questions I had. The guidebook really is thorough and well written, a pleasure to plan trips with!