North Fork Flathead River
Floating & Rafting Information

North Fork Flathead River

Floating the North Fork Flathead River

North Fork Flathead River
Photo Use Guidelines

The North Fork, considering the rugged and mountainous terrain it flows through, is a relatively tame river for floating. The entire river in Montana is essentially floatable, although the area above Ford access site can have some slow floating and some dragging of the raft during low water. Canoes, rafts and kayaks all work well for a float down the North Fork of the Flathead River.

Below Ford river access, the river can be floated pretty much all year. There are no major rapids from Ford until reaching the Glacier Northern Flats area, where several small Class II and one Class III rapid exist. Beyond these rapids, it is smooth, quick flowing water until the confluence with the Flathead River at Blakenship Bridge.

That said, there are a couple of things to watch out for when floating the North Fork Flathead River. During high water is not the time to float this river. As there are no dams on the North Fork Flathead River to regulate its flow, it runs fast during high water, with huge trees floating down like little twigs. With the passing of the Moose Fire, which burnt both sides of the river in the vicinity of Big Creek in the summer of 2001 and then the Robert Fire and Wedge Canyon Fire elsewhere on the river in 2003, floating trees and downfall are likely to be even more of a hazard than it has in the past.

North Fork Flathead River
Photo Use Guidelines

Additionally, logjams on the river form each year, in various places. Currently, several log jams on the North Fork can be found between Polebridge downstream to the Camar Road Bridge. Always be on the lookout for a logjam partially blocking the river. As the river makes a lot of twists and turns, and in a few places becomes quite narrow, surprise logjams can at times pose a real hazard.

The rapids in the North Fork Flathead River are far from severe, certainly nothing like on the Middle Fork Flathead River. That said, the North Fork twists and turns extensively, and small rapids can be found behind most curves. These rapids have scattered large waves with lots of conflicting and swirling currents. While a raft should have absolutely no problems, inexperienced canoeists may run into problems. An inexperienced canoeist may have difficulty at times keeping the boat pointed down river in some of these rapids and waves.

Other than those words of caution, the North Fork Flathead River is a wonderful river to float. Access is easy, with numerous designated access sites, and countless unofficial access sites. One excellent float is between Big Creek and Glacier Rim, a float of about 13 miles. Another longer float is between Polebridge and Big Creek - just be prepared for a long, bumpy ride up to Polebridge, as the road is not paved for much of its length and not very well maintained.

Excellent boats for a float down the North Fork include inflatable kayaks, catamaran kayaks, canoes and inflatable rafts of varying sizes.

North Fork Flathead River : River Miles

Canadian Border: 58.3
Kintla Creek: 49
Ford: 44
Polebridge: 33
Camas Bridge: 17.4
Big Creek: 15.1
Great Northern Flats: 12
Glacier Rim: 4
Blakenship Bridge (confluence of the Flathead River): 0

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