May 22, 2007

Swan River; Montana (The "Wild Mile") (IV)


5 comments:

Sparky said...

The Swan is one of my favorite runs in Montana. It is about as short as they come (1 mile), but contains power packed whitewater (they don't call it the Wild Mile for nothing) and beautiful water quality. At low water (below 1500 cfs), the Wild Mile has more of a mellow-creeky feel to it and is a good time, but if you really want to experience the true Wild Mile, run it over 2500 cfs. At higher flows, the Swan thunders down the last mile from the Swan Lake Dam to its outlet into Flathead Lake at the town of Bigfork. The first rapid (pictured above at around 2700 cfs) contains the nastiest hole on the run, so take a look before you put on (i know several good boaters who have gotten scary beat-downs in this hole...go left).

Wild Mile logistics: Class IV-IV+ (V above 3000 or so). This run will seem easier if everything goes according to plan, but any mishap will quickly justify the rating - you don't want to swim on this one at any level. There is a really nice playspot near the takeout where the rodeo events are held at the Bigfork Whitewater Festival in May, but paddling the run in a playboat at higher flows can be risky business. I like to paddle the run in a creekboat and then grab the playboat at the takeout and work back up to the playspot. You can lap this run all day and it never gets old, or check out the other runs in the area.

Bigfork is a great Montana town - check out the Garden Bar for a good burger and brew after your run (this is a fun place to see music too). The Whitewater Festival is a really good time as well and occurs in late May.

Sparky said...

The put-in is located on Montana Highway 209 at the Swan Lake Dam just east of Bigfork. There is a nice access point on the highway side of the dam, or paddle across the lake and put in on the other side. Take out at the public park bridge in Bigfork. There is a trail that runs alongside the river that you can scout from, but you'll have to bushwhack down a steep hill to see clearly (lots of trees and brush block good views of the river).

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southpawcanoo said...

I love this blog, but I wish there was a better indexing system for finding river info? Also, where are all the open boat paddlers out here. I come from the midwest and am finding a lack of info regarding whitewater canoe and appropriate river conditions for such activities....Any help would be great!