Flathead, Middle Fork, Montana, US
|Usual Difficulty||II-III (for normal flows)|
|Avg. Gradient||18 fpm|
|M F Flathead River near West Glacier MT|
|usgs-12358500||1000 - 8000 cfs||II-III||00h53m||14400 cfs (too high)|
This reach is part of the Flathead River National Wild and Scenic River. It forms the southern border of Glacier National Park. Launch at the Bear Creek access area, where the Middle Fork emerges from the Wilderness and meets Highway 2.
The bouldery Bear Creek rapids greet paddlers immediately below the put in, followed by a beautiful trip through a red mudstone canyon. Rapids are generally mellow but interesting at low to moderate flows, with the exception of Bear Creek and Staircase Rapids (a couple miles downstream of the put in) which stand out as a bit tougher. The scenery is superb, and Walton Goat Lick is a good place to watch the mountain goats frolic on the cliffs (either from your boat if you are lucky or while running shuttle).
You can shorten the trip and take out at the Essex access area, where the Middle Fork crosses
under Highway 2 (about a 5 mile trip), or continue on another 7 miles or so to Paola Creek. After
Essex the river leaves the road and swiftly traverses more beautiful country with mellow class
I-II rapids formed by cobble bars and bends. Colorful cliffs and cutbanks dominate the scenery,
with the occassional cabin, railroad, or road view. Paola Creek access area comes shorlty after
the river nears the road, then bends away around a bench where Paola Creek tumbles into the
For longer trips paddlers can continue on another 12 miles to Cascadilla Creek access area and beyond (Browns Hole Rapid is in this reach). The reach between Cascadilla and Mocassin Creek is called Nyack Flats and is known for having log jams at times. People routinely camp on big cobble bars below the high water mark and enjoy this easily accessible yet at times remote feeling river.