The Flathead River borders the western and southern sections of Glacier National Park, providing not only terrific waters for whitewater rafting, but giving views of an area designated a “wild and scenic” river corridor. The best times for rafting these rapids are from May through the middle of September.
Where to Go Whitewater Rafting
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All three forks of the Flathead River and the lower section provide different whitewater rafting experiences, all extremely enjoyable.
The Middle Fork of the Flathead River The Middle Fork begins near West Glacier, Montana within the Bob Marshall Wilderness area and travels northwest to the southern border of Glacier National Park. With nine major rapids, this section is one of the most thrilling and scenic stretches a whitewater rafter can find. For those new to the sport, going in July is best as the water flows during this time make Class II and III waters. For the Class III and IV rapids, come during spring and early summer. John Stevens Canyon is high on the list of the best places to go.
The Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead River Although only accessible by horse or foot, the Upper Middle Fork is a great whitewater area, flowing through the Great Bear Wilderness and connecting with Bob Marshall Wilderness. Whitewater rafters enjoy the ride past pine forests and glacial valleys. Spectacular beauty, fishing excellence and plenty of wildlife attract rafters here annually.
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The North Fork of the Flathead River The North Fork of the Flathead starts its journey in Canada, running south and bordering Glacier Park on the west side and the Flathead National Forest on the east. This is an incredible river to travel, as you glimpse Glacier Park’s beauty and the surrounding wilderness. The rapids range from Class I to III, with peak water in early June. It’s common for floaters to spot wildlife, such as moose, grizzly bear, black bear and elk.
Lower Flathead River On the lower Flathead River you have a variety of trips to choose from, from kayaking on a peaceful float to taking on the challenge of the Wild Buffalo Rapids, 10 miles of Class IV whitewater between the Kerr Dam and Buffalo Bridge. Continue on for quiet paddling from the Buffalo Bridge to the Clark Fork River.
Clark Fork River The Clark Fork River lies southwest of Glacier National Park in Lolo National Forest. It is renowned for the whitewater found here, Class II and III rapids that provide plenty of thrills through a deep canyon. Wildlife you’ll see includes deer, elk, beaver and bald eagles.
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Rentals & Fees
You won’t have a problem finding raft and kayak rentals in the surrounding communities. Rent self-bailing rafts for $120 to $130 a day (depending on the size) and kayaks from $45 to $75 a day (depending on whether one-person, two-person, inflatable or hardshell).
Hire a Guide
Whitewater rafting adventures seem to delight the vacationer even more when having a guided tour of the river, with all the provisions (life jackets, rain gear, etc.) you could require. Outfitters offer half-day to multiple-day trips and have the knowledge and expertise to make your trip safe and exciting. Explore your options in the listings on this page.