Flathead, Middle Fork - 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area


Flathead, Middle Fork, Montana, US

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2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area

Usual Difficulty II-III (for normal flows)
Length 12 Miles
Avg. Gradient 18 fpm

Surfing on the Flathead


Surfing on the Flathead
Photo of Unknown by Brad Roberts taken 05/31/02 @ 20,000 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
M F Flathead River near West Glacier MT
usgs-12358500 1000 - 8000 cfs II-III 00h34m 7970 cfs (running)


River Description

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 Middle Fork.   

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. 


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2016-07-25 19:58:40

Waterproof Camera Add

Detail Trip Report  Waterproof Camera Add  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, (4.84MB .jpeg)

Living the Goat Life

Detail Trip Report  Living the Goat Life  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, (5.04MB .jpeg)

Camp Life

Detail Trip Report  Camp Life  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, (6.34MB .jpeg)

Mountain Views

Detail Trip Report  Mountain Views  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, (6.54MB .jpeg)

Ducky Fun

Detail Trip Report  Ducky Fun  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, (5.97MB .jpeg)

Gin Clear

Detail Trip Report  Gin Clear  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, (6.41MB .jpeg)

Top Canyon

Detail Trip Report  Top Canyon  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, (6.83MB .jpeg)

bonecrusher on middle fork of the flathead

Detail Trip Report  bonecrusher on middle fork of the flathead  middle fork of the flathead, MT(3.67KB .jpeg)

middle fork

Detail Trip Report  middle fork  middle fork of the flathead, MT(2.73KB .jpeg)

Early season rafting on the MIddle Fork

Detail Trip Report  Early season rafting on the MIddle Fork  Flathead, Middle Fork, MT(2.59MB .bmp)

Colorful Cutbanks Below Essex

Detail Trip Report  Colorful Cutbanks Below Essex  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, MT(6.93MB .jpeg)

Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Flathead!

Detail Trip Report  Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Flathead!   @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, MT(6.44MB .jpeg)

Boulder garden on the Middle Fork

Detail Trip Report  Boulder garden on the Middle Fork  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, MT(6.47MB .jpeg)

Canyon Below Bear Creek

Detail Trip Report  Canyon Below Bear Creek  @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, MT(6.09MB .jpeg)


Gauge Information

We have no additional information about how various flows affect runnability (or playability) of this section of river. If you can provide additional information, please either directly contact the StreamTeam member for this reach, or add a 'comment' or a 'report' with your information to help out your fellow boaters.

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
M F Flathead River near West Glacier MT
usgs-12358500 1000 - 8000 cfs II-III 00h34m 7970 cfs (running)

RangeWater LevelDifficultyComment
1000 -8000 cfs barely runnable-high runnable II-III

Report - Reports of Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area and related gauges

Reports give the public a chance to report on river conditions throughout the country as well as log the history of a river.

Reports

When River/Gauge Subject Level Reporter
Flathead, Middle Fork [MT] Early season rafting on the MIddle Fork 20000 Whitewater Heroes LLC
middle fork of the flathead [MT] middle fork 6800 cfs Josh Stone
355d11h11m @Flathead, Middle Fork 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area Lower Middle Fork Flathead Multiday a good level Kevin Colburn
1y333d11h30m /Flathead, Middle Fork-2. Bear Creek to Moccasin Creek [MT] Avalanche Chutes in Glacier 0 cfs Kevin Colburn
1y333d11h30m /Flathead, Middle Fork-2. Bear Creek to Moccasin Creek [MT] Wild and Scenic Middle Fork Flathead! n/a Kevin Colburn
1y357d11h30m /Flathead, Middle Fork-2. Bear Creek to Moccasin Creek [MT] Colorful Cutbanks Below Essex 4100 cfs Kevin Colburn
1y357d11h30m /Flathead, Middle Fork-2. Bear Creek to Moccasin Creek [MT] Boulder garden on the Middle Fork 4100 cfs Kevin Colburn
1y357d11h30m /Flathead, Middle Fork-2. Bear Creek to Moccasin Creek [MT] Canyon Below Bear Creek 4100 cfs Kevin Colburn

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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
July 27 2016 (696 days ago)
iainsmith (158448)
We did the stretch from Bear Creek to Paola Creek on July 12th in a 14 ft raft. The water was so
low that we got caught up in rocks on several of the Rapids.

Rapid Descriptions

icon of message No rapids entered. If you know names, and locations of the rapids please contact and advise the StreamTeam member for this run.

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 2. Bear Creek to Paola Access Area, Flathead, Middle Fork Montana, US (mobile)