This photo needs editing.
Difficulty I-II+(III)
Length 58 Miles
Gauge N F Flathead River nr Columbia Falls MT
Flow Range 1000 - 10000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 17 minutes ago 4570 [CFS]
Reach Info Last Updated 03/14/2017 3:28 pm

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 offering paddlers some of the most spectacular vistas in the Northern Rockies, blue-green water, and the chance to see grizzlies from your boat (be sure to use proper food storage practices for bear country). 

The gradient from the put-in near the Canadian Border to the take-out at Blankenship Bridge averages 15 feet per mile. The river maintains a steady pace through class I and II riffles, with an occasional rapid that may approach class III. Stay alert for wood in the river, mostly in large log jams, requiring active paddling to safely avoid. 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. Peak flows are in early June with low water by August that requires dragging over gravel bars and the ocasional portage.
 
The upper reach from Canadian Border to Polebridge is class II but with numerous log jams and tight turns. No trip to the North Fork is complete without a stop at the Northern Lights Saloon in Polebridge for a beer and hot meal, and the Polebridge Mercantile for some amazing baked goods and coffee. 
 
The segment from Polebridge to Big Creek Campground (a Forest Service campground on the right bank just after Big Creek confluence) is not considered whitewater but be alert for log jams, narrow channels, and some riffles. Stay particularly alert for braided channels that dead end in this section requiring some careful choices.
 
As you continue on from Big Creek to Blankenship Bridge you will encounter more whitewater and some tricky hydraulics. Fool Hen Rapids (class III) and Lower Fool Hen (class III) are about 8 miles below Big Creek and 3.5 above Glacier Rim (a good access point). About one mile above Glacier Rim you will encounter a pour over 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.
 
The stretch from Glacier Rim to Blankenship is a relatively easy 4 mile section. 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.

 

See also the Middle Fork Flathead.

Rapid Descriptions

Upper Kintla Rapids

Class - II Mile - -48.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Lower Kintla Rapids

Class - II Mile - -47.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Ford Access

Class - N/A Mile - -44
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Alternate access below Ford Work Center

Polebridge Access

Class - N/A Mile - -33.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Alternate access point that allows for a stop at the Polebridge Mercantile and Northern Lights Saloon.

Big Creek River Access

Class - N/A Mile - -15.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

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

rapid

Class - II Mile - -13.9
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Great Northern Flats

Class - N/A Mile - -11
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

rapid

Class - N/A Mile - -10.4
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

rapid

Class - III Mile - -8.3
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Upper Fool Hen Rapids

Class - III Mile - -7.6
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Fool Hen Rapids (class III) are about 8 miles below Big Creek and 3.5 above Glacier Rim

Lower Fool Hen Rapids

Class - III Mile - -7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Lower Fool Hen is about half a mile downstream of Upper Fool Hen.

pour over

Class - III Mile - -4.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

About one mile above Glacier Rim you will encounter a pour over 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 - -3.7
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Alternate take-out

Comments

default user thumbnail
n/a
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7 years ago

dKBgQX drtdcgewevuf, [url=http://qizfkdqrogqh.com/]qizfkdqrogqh[/url], [link=http://luixzczgussu.com/]luixzczgussu[/link], http://iqvkzlfbcpds.com/ Floated from polbridge to blankenship on 17th good relaxing float good for fishing/ sunbathing. Takes about 9 to 10 hours total.

default user thumbnail
Harry Dundore
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7 years ago

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!!!!

default user thumbnail
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9 years ago

permit info not for this North Fork.

Gage Descriptions

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Directions Description


We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

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Date Flow Result Factor  
2015-06-08 n/a Fatality Other Read More
2011-09-22 Low Fatality One Boat Trip Read More

Alerts

   

News

article main photo

North Fork Flathead (MT) Gets New Protections

2010-03-10 00:00:00-05
Kevin Colburn

After several years of international diplomacy, last month the Governor of Montana and the Premier of British Columbia signed an agreement permanently halting proposed mining and petroleum extraction in the Canadian portion of the North Fork of the Flathead River's watershed.  Last week Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester introduced legislation that would offer the same protections for the watershed on our side of the border.   Together, the recent actions of Montana and British Columbia will protect one of our Nation's last best rivers. 

article main photo

Congress Passes River Conservation Bills

2014-12-13 19:54:00-05
Kevin Colburn

In the final days of the 113th Congress, several river conservation measures have been passed designating significant new Wilderness Areas and Wild and Scenic Rivers in areas vitally important to the paddling community.

article main photo

Remembering Oz Hawksley, Co-Founder of American Whitewater

2017-10-10 01:19:00-04
Thomas O'Keefe

We are saddened to report the passing of Oz Hawksley last month at the age of 97. One of American Whitewater’s original co-founders and co-chair of our organization’s first Conservation Committee, Oz was a lifetime advocate for wild rivers who understood the power of bringing together outdoor enthusiasts for effective advocacy. He developed his passion for rivers through the experiences he enjoyed and was at the forefront of early exploration and conservation of the Clearwater, Flathead, Main Salmon, Middle Fork Salmon, Yampa, and Green along with many rivers in the Ozarks. Oz was a leader in the establishment of the Wild and Scenic Rivers system in 1968.

article main photo

Flathead River Tributaries Get Protection for Christmas (MT)

2019-01-11 14:45:00-05
Kevin Colburn

Wild rivers and their enthusiasts got some good news with the release of the new 15-20 year Forest plan for the Flathead National Forest. The decision newly protects 22 streams as eligible for Wild and Scenic designation, based in large part on the advocacy of American Whitewater and our awesome partners and members in Montana. These protections will serve as a vital steppingstone to the designation of some of our Nation’s most outstanding headwater streams. 

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Appeal Challenging Montana Navigability Is Denied

2003-07-28 00:00:00-04
Jason Robertson

On May 28 the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal by Mountain States Legal Foundation who filed a lawsuit in June 2001 alleging the 1985 Montana Stream Access Law violated their rights under the U.S. Constitution to regulate who floated over their land.

The decision thereby protects Montana's Stream access law and public rights of navigation throughout the State.

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River Recreationists Win Big in Montana!

2001-01-09 00:00:00-05
Jason Robertson

The Missoulian newspaper reported on January 5th, 2001 that U.S. District Judge Charles C. Lovell dismissed a case brought by the Mountain States Legal Foundation challenging public recreational rights on Montana’s rivers and streams. This is a huge win for boaters and fishermen!
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Paul Martzen

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Thomas O'Keefe

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Matt Muir

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Kevin Colburn