When you think of a “wild and scenic river,” what comes to mind? Pristine wilderness? Expanses of crystal clear water? Wildlife? There’s a place where this exists, and it’s closer than you think: the middle fork of the Flathead River, on the border of Glacier National Park in beautiful, Northwest Montana.
If you’ve never taken a trip along the Middle Fork River, NOW is an excellent time to plan your vacation. Here’s what you need to know about this unique sliver of paradise.
The Wild and Scenic River Designation
When it comes to the Flathead River, “wild and scenic” is more than a descriptor – it’s a designation. The National Wild and Scenic Rivers System was created by an act of Congress in 1968. According to the WSR act, the program seeks to preserve “rivers with outstanding natural, cultural, and recreational values in a free-flowing condition for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”
The Act is unique in that it preserves the character of the country’s most beautiful rivers while also opening them for appropriate use and development. Because of this, you can still fish, float, and recreate on the middle fork. The three forks of the Flathead River were granted WSR designation on October 12, 1976.
The Location of the Middle Fork
Part of what makes the middle fork of the Flathead so unique is its location. It forms the border between Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness, a portion of the massive, 1.5-million acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex.
As you float down the river, the views are of massive stretches of wilderness. Take a look to your right, and you’re staring into the peaks and forests of Glacier National Park. Look to the left, and you’re peering into the rugged, untamed wilderness of the Great Bear Wilderness.
In the spring, the river’s rapids swell and churn, creating a fun, family-safe stretch of whitewater for adventure-minded visitors. Throughout the year, the river houses deep, azure swimming holes and back eddies. It’s home to native trout species, many of whom will rise for insects on the surface of the water, flashing their silver, pearlescent bellies to thrilled onlookers. The river also welcomes a variety of wildlife including Grizzly Bears, Moose, and hundreds of bird species.
Book Your Trip to Montana and See the Middle Fork for Yourself
Wildlands are critical to us as people, and they’re becoming more essential as civilization expands, and untouched landscapes become harder to find. In the words of writer and conservationist Wallace Stegner’s famed Wilderness Letter:
“We need wilderness preserved–as much of it as is still left, and as many kinds–because it was the challenge against which our character as a people was formed. The reminder and the reassurance that it is still there is good for our spiritual health even if we never once in ten years set foot in it. It is good for us when we are young, because of the incomparable sanity it can bring briefly, as vacation and rest, into our insane lives. It is important to us when we are old simply because it is there–important, that is, simply as an idea.”
Each season brings its own unique flavor to Montana. Get in touch with one of the most incomparable slices of wilderness the world has to offer – the middle fork of the Flathead River. Here at Great Northern Resort, we offer rafting and fishing packages to inspire and reset your entire family. Contact us today to learn more.