Flathead, Middle Fork - 1. Schafer Meadows to Bear Creek

Flathead, Middle Fork, Montana, US


1. Schafer Meadows to Bear Creek (Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead)

Usual Difficulty I-IV (for normal flows)
Length 26 Miles
Avg. Gradient 35 fpm

MF Flathead

MF Flathead
Photo by Randy Clark

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
M F Flathead River near West Glacier MT
usgs-12358500 1000 - 20000 cfs I-IV 00h40m 402 cfs (too low)

River Description

This is the multi-day Wilderness run of the Flathead River National Wild and Scenic River. It begins in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, traverses the Great Bear Wilderness, and the take-out is on the southern border of Glacier National Park. Quite the pedigree - and it is more than deserving.  

While most visitors choose to fly into Schafer Meadows, kayakers and packrafters routinely hike or paddle down Granite Creek 8 miles to enjoy the final 18 miles or so of the Middle Fork.  It is a spectacular run with gin clear water, grizzly bears, and eagles.  It often feels like snorkelling from a boat because there are so many fish and the water is so clear. 

Check out this low water video of the run below Granite Creek: Wild and Scenic Montana, Episode 3: Middle Fork Flathead River from American Whitewater on Vimeo.

Note: the putin lat/longitude coordinates listed above are at Schafer Meadows (no auto access; horse or plane only); this would be the Upper West Fork Flathead.

Photo courtesy of, and copyright by, Randy Clark.

StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2014-06-18 20:06:08


Rapid Descriptions

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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 21 2014 (1646 days ago)
soulyman (156729)
I just posted a bunch of new pictures with captions for this river. I couldn't find the most
reliable info for this section and wanted to update what was here. We started at Shafer running at
8200 and ended at Essex at around 6400 and I thought being a class IV boater that it was perfect!
Check out the pics and enjoy. Feel free to contact me at jgras@sailingscubaadventures.com for more,
Thanks to Glacier Whitewater and Mike from Helena for all the great info!
July 21 2014 (1646 days ago)
soulyman (156729)
There is a log jam just below Cy Creek tributary (river MM 65+) and is not navigable on river left
by rafts from 5000K and above. It is in the picture files for this river but is very runnable river
right after catching a large eddy above the rock.
May 23 2009 (3531 days ago)
x (1)
High Water the upper stretch is very dangerous use extreme caution
July 27 2007 (4197 days ago)
x (1)
new online whitewater guide for montana area paddling - check it out!


  • Wild River

    Letter from John Craighead on the issue of dams and the need for wild rivers.