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Difficulty III-IV
Length 1.25 Miles
Gauge Swan River near Bigfork, MT
Flow Range 800 - 4000 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 1 hour ago 429 [CFS]
Next Release 2017-08-30
Reach Info Last Updated 03/22/2018 1:57 pm

River Description


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.

Rapid Descriptions

Comments

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Chris Gorman
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12 years ago

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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n/a
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6 years ago

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Karl Smithback
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6 years ago

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

Release Schedule

More Information

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.

Gauge Description


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.

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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  
2012-07-28 n/a Fatality Other Read More

Alerts

News

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Releases on Bear and West Rosebud This Weekend!

2010-07-08 00:00:00-04
Kevin Colburn

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!

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Swan River Releases on Summer Wednesday Evenings

2007-07-10 00:00:00-04
Kevin Colburn

The fourth year of releases on the Wild Mile of Montana's Swan River in Bigfork is underway. Releases will follow each Wednesday evening this summer as long as inflow remains above 800cfs.  American Whitewater negotiated these releases and encourages paddlers to take advantage of them.
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1st Swan River WW Release Successful MT

2004-07-08 00:00:00-04
John Gangemi

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.

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Settlement Agreement for the Bigfork Hydropower Project, Swan River, MT

2002-11-27 00:00:00-05
John Gangemi

PacifiCorp filed the Recreation Settlement Agreement for the Bigfork Hydropower Project to the FERC on November 8, 2002. American Whitewater negotiated river access improvements through the removal of chain link fencing and building pedestrian walkways across the canal, easements for public access for the 30 year life of the new license on non-project lands and Wednesday evening whitewater releases July 1 through August 31 annually.
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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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Gary Barker

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Paul Martzen

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Kevin Colburn