The Stillwater River in Northwest Montana (not to be confused with the Stillwater River in Southern Montana) flows for eighty miles from its origin at the small Russky Creek down to its end at the confluence of the Flathead River just south of Kalispell. The river flows through pretty country, primarily timber on the upper half of the river and a mix of timber, fields and agricultural land on the lower half. For most of it’s journey, the river flows fairly slowly through the Flathead Valley, with a few faster spots being found near Kalispell and near Stillwater Lake.
The river is known for its pike fishing, with fish in the twenty to thirty pound range not uncommon. Catching these fish involves some stout gear. When fly fishing for these monsters, use either streamers on a sink tip line or large spoons (spin fishing), throwing them into the many deep pools that are found along the river, focusing on those that are situated in backwaters or where the current is slow.
Whitefish, cutthroat trout and brook trout are also found in the river. However, the trout are quite small, with any trout larger than 10 inches being considered a large trout.
Floating the Stillwater River presents some special problems. Except for during high water, the current is generally slow. As a result, a canoe, inflatable canoe or inflatable kayak is the best vessel.
A class III whitewater rapid exists just below the Stillwater Lake Outlet and runs for 1 mile. The river also has a number of logjams below Lower Stillwater Lake that require portaging. Several fences cross the entire width of the river, resulting in some awkward portages. Finally, downstream from Lower Stillwater Lake, floaters are likely to encounter significant downfall across the river which will require portaging.
The upper Stillwater River has decent access. The upper portion of the river flows through sections of state land. Many bridges cross the river, and the three lakes the river flows through (Duck Lake, Stillwater Lake, Lower Stillwater Lake) also provide access. Motors are allowed on the river, and are frequently used to traverse between these lakes. The Lower Stillwater, however, has limited access—with a few bridge crossings and a park in Kalispell providing the primary access locations.