SOUTH FORK FLATHEAD
Hike past pristine mountain lakes and snow-covered peaks. Cast for native trout along grassy meadows bursting with wildflowers. Feel the exhilaration of whitewater rushing through a narrow gorge. Four days of hiking and four days of rafting combine to make a truly unique backcountry experience in the wilds of Montana. Come see for yourself why the South Fork of the Flathead is a guide favorite!
Similar Trips: Middle Fork Flathead • Middle Fork Salmon
- Departure Month:
- June, July
- Between 7 and 12 days
- Expedition, High Adventure, Intermediate
- Above $2000
“The fishing was unbelievable, the river was perfect, the food was great, the hikes were beautiful and the company was the best. Speaking for Trent and myself, we did not want the trip to end. We will forever cherish the time we shared in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.” Steve Page, 2012
The hike includes clear mountain lakes and a high mountain pass surrounded by majestic snowy peaks and lush green valleys. This remote valley, deep in the Bob Marshal Wilderness is home to extraordinary wildlife including elk, moose, wolf, eagles, mountain goats, grizzly and black bear. Backpack or let the horses carry your gear and wear only a light daypack. We travel 6 to 10 miles a day through spectacular backcountry and most routes include one day of uphill climbing. Just when your feet are getting a bit heavy, we reach the cool, clear waters of the South Fork.
The river is one of the prettiest and most productive trout streams in North America. For the first two days the water meanders lazily through a sweeping glacial valley and grand Ponderosa Pines. We dedicate plenty of river time to fishing for one of the purest strains of Westslope Cutthroat trout in the world. Big and plenty, these native fish average 12-20 inches. On one of our trips last summer three people fishing the same hole each caught 20 fish in under an hour! On the third day of the float we enter Meadow Creek Gorge and the character of the river changes dramatically. The narrow, limestone gorge allows only paddleboats on this section of river and for six miles the water crashes through a series of class III to V rapids (this section is optional). One day of the South Fork’s whitewater is enough adrenaline for the whole trip! The final night is a celebration of our amazing adventure around a roaring campfire. The last day includes a casual float and fishing from the boat. Join us for eight wonderful days in the incredible Bob Marshall Wilderness of Montana.
2013 Schedules and Prices
South Fork Flathead
June 29 – July 5
July 13 – 19
July 23 – 29 (Ultimate Fly Fishing Trip)
7 – Day Backpack/River Combo ~ $2400.00*
7 – Day Horse supported Hike/River Combo ~ $3000.00*
7-Day Ultimate Fly Fishing Experience ~ $4800.00*
*Price subject to 7% Forest Service User Fees
Included: We provide transportation from Kalispell to the river and back to Kalispell at the end of the trip. All meals and snacks beginning with lunch on the first day and ending with lunch on the last day. We also provide use of our sleeping bags, pads and tents or you can bring your own for a $40 discount. You will also be given dry bags for clothing, sleeping gear and a smaller bag for day use. Wetsuits are available in the springtime.
Not included: Prices do not include motels before and after the trip and guide gratuities.
Group discounts based upon the number of people in your party.
Senior and child discounts available. Ask for details.
Charter Trips: Charter trips are available for groups of 6 or more. This means your group has reserved the entire trip. Ask for details.
DEPOSIT & RESERVATION
Reservations can be made by contacting our office at 800.252.6581. A 25% non-refundable deposit is required to reserve your spot. The remainder is due 45 days prior to the trip departure.
We will promptly send you a trip packet including general information on your trip, your invoice and statement, gear list, and medical and liability waiver forms that you will need to return to our office.
Cancellation and Refunds: Operating quality trips is a costly operation with no margin for losses resulting from late cancellations. The space you reserve is held for you, and this may mean turning others away. Each trip is planned for the number of reserved spaces, guides engaged, supplies bought, rafts and vehicles assigned. If notice of cancellations is made more than 45 days prior to departure, you may transfer to any other trip in the same season without penalty. Otherwise the cost is non-refundable.
Travel Insurance: We strongly recommend that you protect yourself with a short term traveler’s insurance policy. Trip cancellation will cover your losses on non-refundable air and land cost on unexpected cancellations.
Cancelled Trips: We reserve the right to cancel a trip due to insufficient reservations, water or weather conditions. In such cases, a full refund for the trip is given. If possible, we will offer an option of a different trip of comparable type.
The South Fork of the Flathead trip begins and ends in Kalispell, Montana.
Before the trip:
Fly commercially into Kalispell, Montana. Delta, Alaska/Horizon, United, Alegiant, Frontier and US Airways offer flights into Glacier National Airport (FCA). A variety of car rentals are available should you decide to visit Glacier National Park before or after your trip. Please alert our office of your arrival time and we can arrange to pick you up.
We will provide transportation from Kalispell to the Rich Ranch the day before your trip is scheduled to begin. Please make sure you arrive in Kalispell before 3 p.m. We will have cabins reserved, dinner reservations and orientation at the Rich Ranch. You will be responsible for the cost of lodging and dinner here. We will need to have our gear ready early the next morning (especially if you’ve chosen to use horse support). A short drive to the trailhead and we’ll be on our way.
After the trip:
We provide transportation back to the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell where we typically have an optional farewell dinner that evening.
Suggested reading: Montana’s Bob Marshall Country by Rick & Susie Craetz. A very good and concise resource on “The Bob”, especially the sections on wildlife and history.
We like to keep our schedule flexible so we can customize every trip. Activities will vary according to the group interests, weather, and water levels.
Day before the trip: Arrive in Kalispell, MT. We will provide transportation from Kalispell to the Rich Ranch. Please make sure you arrive in Kalispell before 3 p.m. We will have cabins reserved, dinner reservations and orientation at the Rich Ranch. In the evening we’ll get together to go over gear, hand out WRO cups and T-shirts and answer any last minute questions.
Day 1: We’ll get an early start for our drive to the Holland Lake trailhead. We will cover 4-6 miles, hiking over a small pass and camping near Upper Holland Lake. This is usually a great place to spot wildlife.
Day 2-3: Hike the fairly steep climb over Gordon Pass (approx. 6,500 feet in elevation). If the group is up for it, we’ll drop our packs and take off for the nearest snow-clad peak for a great view! From the pass, the trail leads downhill through lush mountain meadows and thick woods. We’ll be following Gordon Creek and camping along its shores
Day 4: Hike 4-5 miles, dropping into the broad valley of the South Fork. The views here are breath-taking in every direction. We’ll meet the pack string with our rafts and cool our feet in the clear waters of the river. We’ll camp here tonight and get the rafts ready for the next day.
Day 5-6: We’ll be rafting the calm and beautiful upper South Fork, floating around lazy corners and casting along undercut banks. There will be plenty of opportunities to try out the superb fishing, and we’ll take some time to wander through the beautiful Ponderosa Parks, for the chance to see grazing elk.
Day 7: We reach Meadow Creek Gorge and the easy-going South Fork becomes very narrow and fast. The whitewater is thrilling with a series of class III and IV whitewater. The gorge itself is very beautiful and with a trail along the river, the whitewater is optional. The run through the gorge is dependent on the river level, the gorge being clear of logjams and guide discretion.
Day 8: A fairly quite and beautiful float to our take out. We’ll have lunch on the river and take-out by mid-afternoon. The drive back to Kalispell is about 2 1/2 hours.
*Itinerary and route to river is subject to change based on the desired hiking distance of your group.
South Fork of the Flathead River Suggested Gear
This is the suggested gear list for this particular trip. Having the right gear is important to make it the best possible experience for you. Most of the gear listed you will have or you can use it year-round on any outdoor excursion (football games, boating, skiing, etc.) We want you to have everything you will need to be comfortable and happy.
GEAR PROVIDED – we provide LIFE JACKETS, 2 WATERPROOF DUFFEL BAGS (one for sleeping bag, pad & ground cloth, and one for clothing), WATERPROOF DAY BAG for items you would like accessible during the day (dry shirt, suntan lotion, camera, etc.), and WETSUITS. We provide SLEEPING BAGS, PADS, AND TENTS.
BACKPACK (for the backpacking trips)
RAIN GEAR… good jacket and pants, poncho’s aren’t enough. AVOID VINYL & CHEAP PLASTICS.
3 LIGHTWEIGHT SHIRTS…one long sleeved.
2 PAIR LONG PANTS, synthetic are best.
2 pair SHORTS…synthetics dry faster – good to wear over swimsuit.
SWIMSUITS…nylon is best because it dries faster.
CAP TO BLOCK SUN, & WOOL OR SYNTHETIC HAT for cool evenings…a must for everyone. In case of wind attach with a tie or clip.
GLOVES OR MITTENS…synthetic or wool.
2 WARM SHIRTS…wool or polar fleece (2)
LONG UNDERWEAR…polypro or capilene (not cotton) tops & bottoms.
WARM JACKET…synthetic piles are popular because they are warm even when damp.
FOOTWEAR: The comfort of your feet will make a big difference in your enjoyment of the trip!
HIKING BOOTS …well broken in. No brand new boots please.
SOCKS…5-6 pair, 2 heavy (wool or fleece) and 2 liner socks and 2 medium weight synthetic.
THIN LINER SOCKS…nylon or synthetic, not cotton.
RUNNING SHOES OR SANDALS…for around camp and short hikes.
RIVER SANDALS or OLD RUNNING SHOES FOR WATER.
NEOPRENE SOCKS (described on back side) and old running shoes… this is the best combination we’ve found for keeping your feet warm and safe on the river.
SUNGLASSES AND TIES FOR GLASSES…protects against glare. Pack an extra pair of glasses or contacts.
BIODEGRADABLE SOAP & SHAMPOO
FLASHLIGHT…small one is fine, headlamps work great.
WATER BOTTLE…1 liter.
CAMERA…bring an extra battery as most people find one is not enough.
SMALL DAY OR FANNY PACK…for side excursions.
ZIPLOCKS…for personal trash and organization
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE…if desired (unbreakable containers).
Wilderness River Outfitters provide a MAJOR FIRST AID KIT. However, we do recommend you bring your own preferred personal medication and accessories (Advil, Tylenol, Aspirin, Band-Aids, Cold medicine, etc..)
Reviews from the South Fork of the Flathead River Trip
“We had an incredible trip. I have seen the world and this was by far the best trip I have ever been on. The kids were in their element and we cannot say enough about Jessie, Mark and especially Seth.”
John LaRussa, Alternate Path Adventures, Salmon River
“You should know that the guides did everything possible to provide us with an awesome trip. The river was fantastic but even better was the camaraderie we developed with your WRO family.”
Jeff, Brenda and Jamie Nelson, Middle Fork Salmon River
“Thank you for your strong commitment to the wilderness experience. You did not cut corners. The planning, staff, equipment, supplies, and organization were top. Your family’s personal touch was very evident.”
Alan and Alisha Edmundson
“Thanks for the wonderful experience of a lifetime. I will always remember looking out my tent door to the glacier. I can take that picture with me to the old folks hame if I ever go to one and say, ”I have lived!”