Flathead, North Fork - 1. Canadian Border to Blankenship Bridge


Flathead, North Fork, Montana, US

Disclaimer

1. Canadian Border to Blankenship Bridge

Usual Difficulty I-II+(III) (for normal flows)
Length 58 Miles
Avg. Gradient 15 fpm

Glacier National Park is a spectacular backdrop of the whole trip


Glacier National Park is a spectacular backdrop of the whole trip
Photo by Kevin Colburn taken 07/04/09

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
N F Flathead River nr Columbia Falls MT
usgs-12355500 1000 - 10000 cfs I-II+(III) 9d13h45m 1490 cfs (running)


River Description

The North Fork is one of only four Wild and Scenic Rivers in Montana. It forms the southwestern border of Glacier National Park.  It offers paddlers some of the most spectacular vistas in the Northern Rockies, blue-green water, and the chance to see Grizzlies from your boat.  The river maintains a steady pace through class I and II riffles, with an occassional rapid that may approach class III.  There is lots of wood in the river, mostly in large log jams, requiring some paddling skills.  There are also a number of braided channels that can deadend, particularly below polebridge, requiring some careful choices.  In general though, this reach is a mellow float through beautiful country.  Camping is unregulated, and many people float this reach as a 2 or 3 day trip.  No trip to the North Fork is complete without a stop at the Northern Lights Salloon for a beer and hot meal, and the Polebridge Mercantile for some amazing baked goods and coffee. 

Gradient from border of Canada to Blankenship bridge averages 15 feet per
mile. Upper reach from Canada to Polebridge is class II but with numerous log jams and tight turns.  Low water in August and after require dragging over gravel bars or portage. Polebridge to Big Creek (FS campground on right bank just after Big Creek confluence) is not considered whitewater but be
alert for log jams, narrow channels, and some riffles. Big Creek to Blankenship: Some tricky
hydraulics. Fool hen rapids (III upper and lower fool hen) are about 8 miles below Big Creek and 3.5 above Glacier Rim (a good access point). About one mile above Glacier Rim there is a pour off
extending from the right bank to the middle of the river (or farther at some levels). This is a
dangerous flipper but easy to avoid if staying alert to downstream obstacles. Stay to river left
and look it over. It can be impressive. Blankenship Bridge is 4 miles further and also good access.
The stretch from Glacier Rim to Blankenship is relatively easy. The confluence of the Middle Fork
and North Fork of the Flathead is just above Blankenship Bridge. Better access for vehicles is on
the east side of the bridge but many stay on the west side to avoid the ferry across both forks to
reach that bank. Lower water makes this quite easy. Enjoy…Greg Malone, AWA member

 

See also the Middle Fork Flathead.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-07-14 04:16:25

Rapid Summary

Mile Rapid Name Class Features (Legend)
14.0Ford AccessN/AAccess
24.0Poleridge AccessN/AAccess
42.0Big Creek River AccessN/AAccess
50.0Fool Hen RapidsIII
52.5Pour offIIIHazard
53.5Glacier Rim AccessN/AAccess

Rapid Descriptions

Ford Access (Class N/A, Mile 14.0)

Alternate access below Ford Work Center



Poleridge Access (Class N/A, Mile 24.0)

Alternate access point



Big Creek River Access (Class N/A, Mile 42.0)

Alternate river access that let's you take out above the bigger rapids or put-in to just do the lower section.



Fool Hen Rapids (Class III, Mile 50.0)

Fool hen rapids (III upper and lower fool hen) are about 8 miles below Big Creek and
3.5 above Glacier Rim



Pour off (Class III, Mile 52.5)

About one mile above Glacier Rim there is a pour off
extending from the right bank to the middle of the river (or farther at some levels). This is a
dangerous flipper but easy to avoid if staying alert to downstream obstacles. Stay to river left
and look it over. It can be impressive.



Glacier Rim Access (Class N/A, Mile 53.5)

Alternate take-out




User Comments


2011-12-18 04:00:46 (1070 days ago)
HarryDundore (153688)
I've spent a lot of time in and around Glacier. This stretch has a very large grizzly population
(even for Glacier) on both sides of the river, so please be careful and take appropriate (Alaska
style) measures if camping. Also, this part of Montana is in the Pacific Northwest weather system
and does not enjoy the beautiful early weather the rest of Montana generally does and Glacier tends
to make it's own weather all summer. Plan for bad weather year-round. Lot's of wood hazards!!!
Inquire at Polebridge. If you get lucky with the weather, you'll never forget this float!!!!

2009-05-29 08:29:54 (2003 days ago)
x (1)
permit info not for this North Fork.
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