May 20, 2009

Main Flathead River, Montana, I-II (Buffalo Bridge to Sloan Bridge)

I am going to make an increased effort to start posting on stretches that have mellower water and are more "family friendly" in addition to the more difficult runs. The Main Flathead from Buffalo Bridge to Sloan Bridge is my favorite overnight canoe stretch in the state of Montana. Click the river name above for a detailed description of the run.


Brian said...

The Main Flathead River from Buffalo Bridge to Sloan Bridge is a great overnight canoe (or raft) stretch that has beautiful blue water that is usually warm, great camping, and fast-moving flat water. With such large volume, you hardly even need to paddle on this stretch to make progress. Bring a full cooler with lots of ice, ample sunscreen, a good posse of friends and family, and get ready to kick back and relax for two days of Montana bliss.

The views of the Mission Mountains from this stretch of the Flathead are stunning. There are also cool badlands-type clay/mud formations that are really neat and provide habitat for lots of birds. There is no significant whitewater at all on this stretch, just a couple mellow wave trains, so this is a good one for the family. Be prepared to deal with lots of cattle on the banks (the only downside to the run). Also keep a keen eye out for rattlesnakes - they're thick around the Flathead.

Flathead logistics: Class I-II (the only reason I say II is that the water moves pretty fast and has high volume). To reach the takeout, take Round Butte Road to the west out of Ronan off of Highway 93 until you reach the junction with Sloan Road. Take a left on Sloan Road until you reach the Sloan Bridge over the Flathead. To get to the putin, take Sloan Road back to Round Butte Road, turn right and go until you reach Valley View Road, then take a left. Follow Valley View Road all the way until it intersects with Buffalo Bridge Road. Take a left on Buffalo Bridge Road and follow the zig-zags down to the river at Buffalo Bridge. This is also the takeout for the Buffalo Rapids section, a super fun Class III big water stretch that is easily accessed from Polson. You can easily get to Buffalo Bridge from Polson as well - take Kerr Dam Road out of Polson until it becomes Valley View Road, then follow it to the intersection with Buffalo Bridge Road.

Blackfoot River Challenge said...

Just a note, continuing to Dixon or even to the Paradise bridge is a great extension to this trip. Caution when leaving vehicles at Sloan Bridge, there is the possibliity of vandalism. Probably one of the best overnights close to Missoula though.

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