Flathead River
Floating & Paddling Information

Floating & Rafting the Flathead River

Big Mountain Ski Resort seen from Flathead River
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The upper part of the Flathead River above Flathead Lake offers a relatively easy float. The current is generally fast. Below Blakenship Bridge, depending on river flows, several small rapids that have large waves exist that can pose problems for canoes. These small rapids are able to be bypassed, but the fast current can make it difficult to avoid them. Beyond these rapids, other than a few small riffles and some whirpools that form where the various forks in the river converge, nothing should give a floater of any skill level problems on the Flathead River.

Access for floating is excellent. Tea Kettle FAS in Columbia Falls is an excellent site, complete with a nice boat launch. Other designated access sites on the Flathead River are Blakenship Bridge, Kokanee Bend (no boat ramp), Pressentine Bar, Old Steel Bridge in Kalispell, Foy's Bend and Sportsmans Bridge (used mainly for access to Flathead Lake).

One of the nicest floats on this section of the Flathead River is between Columbia Falls at Tea Kettle FAS and Old Steel Bridge FAS in Kalispell. The scenery is wonderful, the current flows quickly and there is not much floating traffic. Float times for this section are about 4 hours or so, depending on number of stops. Also, all the islands in this stretch make for great spots to pull over for lunch.

Below Kerr Dam, the Flathead River flows through a canyon. The first seven miles below the canyon are called "Buffalo Rapids." Depending on current stream flows, several class IV rapids with sizeable waves and holes can exist. Be smart! Before entering these rapids, be sure to scout them out first. Due to the variable flows from the dam, what one day may be a rapid may the next be a big hole and the next completely washed over. The Flathead River is big below Kerr Dam, and more resembles a slow moving lake as it approaches the Clark Fork.

Flathead River : River Miles

Listed below are selected river miles for the Flathead River in Montana. You can get more detailed information about some of these fishing access spots at the Montana FWP Website.

Blakenship Bridge (confluence of North and Middle Forks): 158.3
Confluence of the South Fork (Hungry Horse): 148.7
Tea Kettle FAS in Columbia Falls: 143.6
Kokanee Bend FAS: 141.2
Pressentine Bend FAS: 136.2
Old Steel Bridge FAS: 128.5
Foys Bend Access Site: 122
Sportsman Bridge FAS just above Flathead Lake: 107.5
Kerr Dam: 72
Buffalo Bridge (end of Buffalo Rapids): 65
Jocko River: 25
Perma Bridge: 11.3
Clark Fork : 0

Next Page : Photographs of the Flathead River


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