Flathead River Montana Fly Fishing, Camping, Boating

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Flathead River

The wild and undeveloped Flathead River offers a scenic waterway used for great fishing, tranquil floating and wildlife watching in a terrific destination suited for the whole family.

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  • The Flathead River offers plenty of fishing, floating and wildlife watching
  • The North Fork of the Flathead River flows along the boundary to Glacier National Park
  • Explore the river area by hiking or horseback riding in the wilderness
  • Fish for rainbow and lake trout as well as cutthroat and whitefish


The Flathead River, Montana, starts its 219-mile journey in the Rocky Mountains, close to Glacier National Park. Parts of the three separate forks of the river are designated National Wild, Scenic and Recreational areas. Outdoor recreation provides the entire family a wonderful vacation along the Flathead when visiting Glacier National Park.


The North Fork of the Flathead River lies to the west of Glacier National Park, the Middle Fork is to the southeast of the park, and the South Fork Flathead runs south of Glacier through Flathead and Lolo National Forests. Access to the North Fork is via West Glacier, Essex or Bear Creek, all on the southwestern edge of the park. US 2 will give you access to the lower section of the North Fork.


The river is accessible all year, but fishing season is from the third Saturday in May through to November 30th. Whitewater rafting is best done from June to July.


Hiking and Horseback Riding
Throughout the Flathead River MT area you will find many trails leading into the wilderness. You can explore by foot or on horseback. You won’t find any motorized vehicles running through this region.

Both the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead provide great catches, no matter what you’re after. See how many rainbow, bull and lake trout you can catch. You’ll find satisfactory populations of cutthroat, whitefish and northern pike too. The North Fork is probably the best place to throw in a line, as this is a prime habitat for fish with its deep slow-moving pools.

Floating and Whitewater Rafting
All forks of the Flathead offer terrific floating and rafting opportunities. On the South Fork, the floating experience is a thrilling one. This Class I river gives you a float from Young’s Creek to Hungry Horse Reservoir. The Middle Fork begins in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and has some Class III and IV rapids, which become Class II to III by late July. The North Fork of the Flathead River has a whitewater rating of Class I to II. It’s a real adventure floating along the boundary to Glacier National Park.

Wildlife Watching
The best place to do your wildlife watching is along the North Fork. You not only get spectacular views, but you’ll certainly spot some black bear, grizzlies, moose and elk.

Additional Info

The early 1800s saw fur traders coming to the Flathead Valley searching for the animals that provided them with a living. Trading posts were set up near Flathead Lake. The first settlers came to this area in the 1860s.