By Zach Lazzari | Photos by Ryan McSparran
The South Fork of the Flathead wilderness float shuttle is a long one. You meet the Lazy J Bar O wranglers and livestock in the Blackfoot Valley for the trek to Young’s Creek and exit the river above Hungry Horse Reservoir near Glacier National Park. After finishing your float, 2 hours of dirt road awaits the trip back to civilization. You can extend the trip by stocking your vehicle with supplies for the takeout. There are also tons of additional fishing, floating and hiking options after your wilderness trip ends.
Camp Near the Takeout
There is no need to rush off the river and down the road. You are still on public lands and there are tons of camping opportunities on the South Fork, Spotted Bear river and in the National Forest. Hit a few trailhead and consider wade fishing the river or one of the many tributaries. Most waters in the area are loaded with westslope cutthroats and bull trout migrate throughout the entire system. Stick around a few extra days and wind down at a campsite.
Fish the Greater Flathead System
If you are craving a burger and a hot shower, head down the dirt road to Hungry Horse and Highway 2. The Packer’s Roost is a fun stop with great burgers. Backslope Brewing is another favorite in Columbia Falls. Lodging and good food is easy to find between Columbia Falls and West Glacier as highway 2 is a major tourism artery. Access to the Mainstem, Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead are well labeled in this gateway to Glacier National Park. Wade access is abundant and floats are pretty easy to figure out, especially if you just rowed the South Fork.
Take a Glacier Trip
lacier is a short drive and you can head into the park after the float. Drive the inside road to escape the crowds. Kintla and Bowman lakes are both fantastic options for a day or overnight trip. Or take a drive up the Going to the Sun Road and come out in East Glacier. The drive is world class with big views, wildlife, trails and stopping points along the way. If you’re really adventurous, work down the Rocky Mountain Front and do some exploring south of Glacier. You could spend a lifetime chasing trails, fishing and playing in this region.