WOW!! This is it!! The "Wild Mile" !! Home of the Bigfork Whitewater festival held at the end of May.
Locals get to run this as early as the first part of April, depending on snow melt. Runnout extends longer than most Montana Rivers, thanks to Swan Lake, which feeds out warm water into July most years.
If you are new to the mile, be sure to scout the "Big Drop" about a hundred yards from the putin.
For 13 miles from Swan Lake to Bigfork Dam, the Swan river is flat and lazy. But from the dam to the powerhouse, the river drops 100 feet in 1.25 miles. Past the powerhouse in Bigfork, the river enters Flathead Lake.
As flows drop in summer, scheduled opportunities are provided thanks to the advocay of American Whitewater. During the month of July and August the generators are turned off on Wednesday evenings to restore the full project flow into the river channel. These releases take place from 5 pm - 9 pm and are contingent on project inflows equal to or greater than 800 cfs at 8 am the day of the release. In most years this provides boatable flows on Wednesday evenings through the month of July but by August inflow typically drops below 800 cfs and the releases are no longer provided.
Put in: River left just below the dam.
Take out: River left, just below the powerhouse.
There is a closed dirt road along the river. Drive up through big fork past a fly shop as far as you can. The road is closed so you will have to walk. The dirt road offers very limited views of the river. To get good shots you will have to hike down a steep hill on some very faint trails. I was able to hike the whole section but it was not easy. Expect lots of climbing over trees and rocks. The run is very continuous class 4 (at 2500cfs)
But that is the run above the playspot. There is an easily accessible playspot. But to access it you will need to speak to the home owner as the only way to take pictures is to be in someone
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Does anyone know when the wild mile is suitable for an open boat canoe...? I imagine it's a bit pushy at about 2000cfs, and as such I think one might spend more time bailing then paddling. My thoughts are below 1500cfs might provide for some canoe creeking
We have had releases on this reach but don't show any currently. This information is gathered by the public. If you know about releases then contact us about them. If you would volunteer to enter the releases, then reach out to us.
The online USGS gauge measures inflow to the project. Of this flow approximately 600 cfs is diverted for power generation. Boating opportunities are available in the spring when you can estimate flow left in the river channel by subtracting the 600 cfs diverted for generation from the inflow to the project. Optimal boating opportunities are available when calculated flow in the river channel is 800 cfs or above.
As flows drop in summer, scheduled opportunities are provided. During the month of July and August the generators are turned off on Wednesday evenings to restore the full project flow into the river channel. These releases take place from 5 pm - 9 pm and are contingent on project inflows equal to or greater than 800 cfs at 8 am the day of the release. In most years this provides boatable flows on Wednesday evenings through the month of July but by August inflow typically drops below 800 cfs and the releases are no longer provided.
A staff gauge is located at the putin, at the bottom of the fish ladder on river right. Approximate gauge correlation to cfs: 2.0' = 800 cfs. 2.5' = 1000 cfs. 3.0' = 1500 cfs. 3.5' = 2000 cfs. 4.0' = 2500 cfs.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
Use the map below to calculate how
to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.
Wild Mile dishing it out
Playboating on the Wild Mile
Gorgeous evening on the swan
The first rapid on the Wild Mile
Bigfork Whitewater Festival
If someone gets hurt on a river, or you read about a whitewater-related injury, please report it to
American Whitewater. Don't worry about multiple submissions from other witnesses, as our safety
editors will turn multiple witness reports into a single unified accident report.
American Whitewater is pleased to announce releases this coming weekend (July 10 and 11, 2010) on both the Black Canyon of the Bear River (ID) and West Rosebud Creek (MT). Both of these rivers are Class IV/V and the releases are the result of years of hard work by AW staff, volunteers, and affiliate clubs. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 7th, boaters traveled to the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />SwanRiver to participate in the first whitewater releases from the Bigfork Hydropower Project. PacifiCorp, operator of the powerhouse, closed the 670 cfs canal intake allowing water to travel down the 1 mile long natural river channel. This section of river below the dam is known as the “Wild Mile” site of the annual Bigfork Whitewater Festival in early June. American Whitewater memorialized this conservation victory with free burgers and beverages for AW members. Membership in American Whitewater helps make this type of conservation work possible.
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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