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Bigfork, Montana Area Chamber of Commerce

River Fun Begins in Bigfork

The waters of the Flathead River rush south from Canada and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.  The Swan River flows north from the Mission Mountain Wilderness.  Together these icy glacial waters become Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. But before these clear waters transform themselves into one gigantic lake, there are miles of whitewater to raft, countless fish to catch, and wildlife large and to photograph and enjoy.

As the weather warms, the snow melts and finds its way into the rivers. This spring runoff means whitewater.  And nowhere is this more apparent than on the “Wild Mile” of the Swan River where kayakers take up the annual challenge of Class IV rapids during the races of the Whitewater Festival.  But the fun doesn’t stop once the races are over.  There are always challenging rapids on this section of the Swan, due in part to a weekly water release every Wednesday. From Swan Lake to the dam that helps create the Wild Mile, the river follows a slower pace.  Canoes, kayaks and drift boats are popular as the river twists and turns through forests, fields and farms.

The Middle Fork of the Flathead River is another whitewater favorite, especially along the stretch that becomes the southern border of Glacier National Park.  What better place to experience the thrill of running the rapids while surrounded by some of our nation’s most spectacular scenery!  By the middle of July, there are still some challenging rapids, but with lower waters and long warm days, there are more opportunities to simply float and enjoy.

Some segments of the Flathead River are designated as part of the Wild & Scenic Rivers System. And the Flathead certainly lives up to the “wild” and “scenic” billing.  Because weather and river conditions can change quickly, we recommend that visitors to the area take advantage of the skills and knowledge provided by our local outfitters.  They can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip for the entire family.

Whether you choose wade or float, spin or fly, fishermen will usually find that the fish are biting on the rivers. Westslope Cutthroat Trout and the Mountain Whitefish populate the North and South Forks of the Flathead River as well as the Swan.  As the forks merge into the main Flathead, Rainbow trout and even some Lake Whitefish can be found.

All non-residents age 15 or older are required to have a fishing license.  (A license is not necessary to fish inside Glacier National Park.) Fishing licenses are available at many of our sporting goods stores, marinas and even some convenience stores.  You can also go online and obtain your license before arriving in Montana.

Many anglers who fish here for the first time comment that it’s difficult to concentrate on the action below the water when there’s so much going on along the shore.  That’s why floating the rivers is such a popular pastime.  Osprey soar overhead searching for their own fish dinner.  Deer and elk come to the shore or wade in for a drink.  Sometimes other predators (bear, wolf or coyote) come into view.  Because many animals seek the shade during the hotter summer days, you’ll probably see more wildlife if you plan your float trip for early morning or towards dusk.

Whether its whitewater rafting, a dinner float or fishing, many of our visitors prefer to go with an expert. A professional guide can make any day on the river more productive, more enjoyable and safer.

To learn more about Bigfork, visit  Media queries may be directed to Carol Beck-Edgar at 406-837-2061.

Listed in Outdoor Recreation

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