Flathead, South Fork - 2. Mid Creek to Cedar Flats


Flathead, South Fork, Montana, US

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2. Mid Creek to Cedar Flats

Usual Difficulty IV(V+) (for normal flows)
Length 4 Miles
Avg. Gradient 35 fpm

The Slot - Meadow Creek Gorge


The Slot - Meadow Creek Gorge
Photo by D. Schroeder @ 11,000+



River Description

The Meadow Creek Gorge section of the South Fork Flathead has an odd reputation due to the fact that it sees a fair amount of raft traffic compared to the more maneuverable kayaks and also because the overall difficulty changes drasticly when flows are high. I have heard some serious horror stories regarding trips down the gorge spanning rafting, inflatable kayaks, and hardshells, but have no idea which are true and which are legend. I can say this....
At high water, say 8,000 cfs and up , the Meadow Creek Gorge is serious business. Though the 4-5 individual rapids are not technically demanding class V, the squirelly boil lines, random surges, enormous whirlpools and unthinkable consequences of a swim make this a solid class V run at the very least. Very competent class V boaters have pulled off this section above the "Slot" rapid due to the unruly big water encountered at high flows. Everything has been run up to 17,000 cfs.

The high water Meadow Creek Gorge experience is unmatched in Montana for big water intensity and is very well worth a pilgimage up the unending road around Hungry Horse Reservoir. Make sure to check out the very short and steep section of Jungle Creek on the way to the put-in and also take a look at Gorge Creek, which is just up the road from the campground. I have not paddled the Meadow Creek stretch at medium or low flows, but have gathered that it is much less intense though somewhat more technically demanding at medium flows. Either way, it is gorgeous in that area. You won't be disappointed. Input from someone that knows the run at these flows would be appreciated.
StreamTeam Status: Verified
Last Updated: 2007-03-26 21:27:17

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Meadow Creek Gorge

Detail Trip Report  Meadow Creek Gorge  South Fork Flathead, MT(108.86KB .jpeg)

The Slot - Meadow Creek Gorge

Detail Trip Report  The Slot - Meadow Creek Gorge  South Fork Flathead, MT(102.89KB .jpeg)


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User Comments

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July 21 2008 (3619 days ago)
x (1)
"You guys making a movie? Not many folks bring a raft through this section of the gorge." Those
ominous words from a Kalispell couple echoed through my mind as I stood on a pack bridge high above
Meadow Creek Gorge scouting yet another blind bend on the South Fork of the Flathead. Having easily
traversed nearly 19 river miles the day before (two guys in kayaks, three--plus my dog Sunshine--
in a 13' raft) we were now completing Day 5--a ten hour saga that included three brutal portages,
two near misses, and a whoping 2.5 miles traveled. So, when I traded my Gerber river knife to the
Kalispell fellow for a 6-pack of cold Bush Light (uuggh) and two Diet Pepsis, I thought I had made
the deal of a lifetime--a "kill" equal to bringing a buffalo back to the Mandan tribe. Nestled in
the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness the South Fork of the Flathead is considered one of the
most remote wilderness rivers in the lower 48. The river originates at the confluence of Danaher
and Youngs Creek and can be reached via Holland Lake to the west (27 miles), or Monture Creek from
the south near Ovando (26 miles). While mules can pack your boats and gear in, most outfitters
charge by their total trip in days--(2) in and (1) out. However, Cheff Ranch pushes to the
confluence in one day, offers some of the best rates out there, and were wonderful to work with.
During higher water the hike can be shortened up to nine miles by putting in above the confluence
at Hahn Creek, a tributary to Youngs. The first 40 miles of the South Fork is pretty straight
forward Class I+ (II) water; however, expect to meet a couple of massive log jams along the way
that demand portage. The river is so remote in this section you may have better luck seeing a
grizzly than another human. Ther scenery is spectacular and the river is as clear as remote rivers
I've seen in Chile, with visibility at 20+ feet. Even if you have never fished before, take along
your fishing gear and expect to land 50 Cuthroat trout a day. Side hikes to the Chinese Wall and
alpine lakes are other options to consider if you have the time and energy. Class I-II rapids dot
the river early on, but the last four miles before Mid Creek offer a handful of low-end class IIIs
with decent surf. If you want to end your peaceful float, be sure to take out a Mid creek, as the
nature of the river changes dramatically beyond this point--there is a large sign warning the
unweary of their impending doom. If you decide to takeout here, you still have a 3-mile hike to the
Meadow Creek trail head, so arranging mules is a good idea. Once you have floated past the Mid
Creek take-out you are pretty much committed to the gorge, as the limestone walls quickly close in
and the gradient begins to take a noticeable drop. The first significant rapid is a Class IV drop
that has a rock situated perfectly for a vertical pin. The channel narrows quickly through a series
of Class III drops and leads into a slot too narrow for most rafts (250 yard portage), but posed no
problems for the kayaks. Just past this slot is a fun wave train that has a hole on the right you
may want to avoid. The next major challenge is how to get the raft safely into a micro eddy in
order to avoid a three foot wide slot that the entire river pushes through; our plan worked, but
nearly cost us everything...let me share our Plan A and Plan B, the story goes something like this:
Plan A: OPERATION HIT THE SMALL EDDY ON THE RIGHT OR DIE As our group moved forward cautiously,
kayakers scouting ahead, we came upon a very narrow 3-4 ft. slot that required a portage of the
raft....trouble was we had 80 ft. sheer walls on both sides of the river and no way to head back
upstream; we hastily devised what we thought was a workable plan and moved into action. Two members
of the group would kayak down and catch a micro eddy approximately 30 ft. above the "Death Slot",
and wait there for ropes that would be thrown from the raft by two others. Everyone was in position
and I had the raft right where I wanted it to be--the perfect line to catch the eddy--when suddenly
the raft struck a submerged rock as it entered the safe zone and catapulted the raft abruptly
downstream towards the white storm and certain peril. Two ropes flew from the hands of the damned
and our two anchormen caught both and miraculously were able to hang on just before the abandon
ship command was given, which, by the way, was Plan B. Below this challenge lies a long set of
Class III rapids with tight turns, narrow slots, and small drops which we deemed too risky for a
fully loaded raft--we spent the next two hours portagingn gear and supplies, and lining the raft
through the rapids that the kayaks easily negotiated. At the bottom of these rapids you will find
the second very narrow slot, perhaps 5 ft wide--- we were able to deflate the unloaded raft enough
to squeeze it through. The last constriction lies below Meadow Creek Pack Bridge. At higher water
(3000+)there is a pillow rock on river right that absorbs nearly all of the current; at lower flows
(below 1500) this rock shows itself as an undercut. The second Slot (click pic to enlarge) The
current can be a bit pushy through the narrow, sheer-walled section, and be on the lookout for
strainers as there is little or no eddy service. Once the canyon slot opens up you have a 1/2 mile
section of fun Class III/IV water that is best run left to right. Take out at Cedar Flats just
below this section unless you want to continue the 18 miles of Class I water to Hungry Horse
Reservoir.
August 15 2007 (3960 days ago)
x (1)
The coolest place.

Rapid Descriptions

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 2. Mid Creek to Cedar Flats , Flathead, South Fork Montana, US (mobile)