Whitewater rafting and kayaking in Montana’s Glacier National Park is not for the faint of heart. The rivers begin to rage as soon as the snow melt begins it annual flow from the mountain peaks to the valleys below, which have made a habit of producing some of the most epic rapids in all of North America for the last 7,000 years.
However, this region is not all about surviving the next set of whitewater, as there are also calm, placid glacial lakes that provide for peaceful canoeing, paddle boarding and wind powered pleasure.
Glacier National Park’s Flathead River system is a fragile ecosystem of clear mountain rivers and vast tracts of mountain wilderness. The best rafting opportunities are from the middle of May through September.
For those who want to pinpoint the most challenging time so they can extract the most out of their whitewater adventure, early June is when the real river action kicks into gear, as the rapids can change from Class II to Class IV in the blink of an eye.
Choose the fork that fits your degree of adventure
For anyone who has taken a ride down Class III rapids, it is known that these are no joke. For those looking for a consistent thrill on the waves of flowing whitewater, the Middle Fork may provide them with the ultimate rafting experience. During the spring and early summer the Middle Fork of the Flathead can produce rapids that peak at Class III, which is sure to get the heart pumping as you navigate down the churning river.
For those looking for a longer journey, they may look to the North Fork as providing the extended stay on the river they desire. The journey begins just south of Canada, taking rafters on a 60-mile whitewater journey through unparalleled wilderness beauty that is surrounded by the rugged and majestic mountain ranges that encompass this unique countryside.
The Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead provides an intimate rendezvous with nature that can only be reached by air, horseback or on foot. Without dams to impede its flow, the Upper Middle Fork has rightfully earned its title as being “Montana’s Mightiest River,” which originates in the Bob Marshall Wilderness region and forms the southern border of Glacier National Park. During the spring and early summer this section of river reaches its peak with Class III rapids. Flowing for nearly 50 miles through the heart of this rugged and beautiful landscape, the Upper Middle Fork of the Flathead River carves its way through the glacial valleys and lush forests of Northwest Montana and is one of the most protected rivers in the United States.
Glacier National Park is more than just whitewater
For those looking to combine their outdoor adventures with something beyond just whitewater action, Glacier National Park also offers an abundance of backpacking and horseback riding options. For a true outdoor experience, try the hike and raft program that includes overnight camping along the river. Campfires blazing at night with a sky full of stars are sure to add further enrichment to you and your companions’ experience after a day on the river.
Beyond the rafting adventures, there are also an abundance of kayak and canoe trips to be experienced on the many lakes, including Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park.
If your journey takes you to Swiftcurrent Lake, be sure to take along your camping and backpacking gear, as the lake provides access to many trailheads that can lead you to a view of Grinnell Glacier.
Lodging options range from bare bones to luxurious
Many lodging options are available, which range from the simple knotty pine forest cabins to luxury lodges. Many of the lodges have cabins in addition to comfortable rooms, and most of the cabins come with a campfire pit.
For those looking to rough it, the park provides several camp stores where camping gear and groceries can be purchased and there are 13 campgrounds in the park with more than 1,000 sites that allow you to pitch your tent.
Glacier National Park is more than rapids and raging rivers, it’s also a hiking, biking and horseback riding paradise, with 740 miles of trails to explore. In winter it becomes a snowshoe and cross-country skiing wonderland.
No matter what season, Glacier National Park is pure adventure, which provides for an Ice Age adventure that touches on our long forgotten past, while also providing visitors with a thrill that they will take with them for many years to come.
For information on rafting adventures contact The Glacier Raft Company at www.glacierraftco.com, or for the big picture go keyboard kayaking to the website of Glacier National Park at http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm.