Tag Archives: North Fork Flathead River

Glacier Park & Flathead Forest to track river use this summer

Rafters head down the Middle Fork Flathead River
Rafters head down the Middle Fork Flathead River

Well, now. It looks like a more serious effort is afoot (afloat?) to track river usage this summer . . .

The Flathead National Forest and Glacier National Park are embarking on a joint plan this summer to track river use on the North and Middle Forks of the Flathead, with the eventual goal of crafting management plans for the Wild and Scenic rivers.

The initial plans date back to 1980 and 1986. Since then, visitor numbers to the region have surged, but the management plans have stayed untouched. In Glacier, nearly 3 million visited the Park last year. In 1986, Glacier saw a little more than 1.5 million visitors.

While anecdotal evidence indicates the rivers are getting more crowded with floaters and fishermen, the agencies don’t have baseline data for river usage, said Chris Prew, forest recreation program manager for the Flathead National Forest.

Read more . . .

Glacier’s headwaters: Water tower to our continent

North Fork of the Flathead River - ©Mark LaRowe
North Fork of the Flathead River – ©Mark LaRowe

A few days ago, the National Parks Conservation Association released their Summer 2017 Field Report for the Northern Rockies. In it was an article by Michael Jamison, Crown of the Continent Program Manager, that is highly relevant to the North Fork, as well as any other region downstream of the Canadian Rockies. By permission of the author, it is reprinted here in its entirety . . .

People tend to think Glacier National Park is all about mountains.

And people are wrong.

Glacier is also about water: icy cold water rushing clean and clear across gravel and stone; whitewater plunging over cliff-band falls; sky-blue water eddying into lakes set like sapphires into the deep green of wilderness.

From the summit of the park’s Triple Divide Peak, meltwater flows west to the Pacific, east to the Atlantic, north to the Arctic by way of Hudson Bay. Glacier is water tower to a continent, spiked by peaks sharpened on a grindstone of Pleistocene ice.

I recently flew north out of Glacier, over a long slice of Alaska—another place branded by its mountains. Chugach. Wrangell-St. Elias. The Aleutians and Brooks and Chilkats.

But Alaska, like Glacier, is not really about mountains.

What I saw unfolding below was, again, a wild country defined by water: an endless winding coastline; miles of muskeg pooling like quicksilver; rivers washing the feet of mountains, slicing tundra and stone, spilling sediment braids into an ocean the color of steel.

Montana and Alaska are alike in this way. They also share a common headwater: British Columbia.

Continue reading Glacier’s headwaters: Water tower to our continent

Flathead Forest edging toward new river plan

Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana - Jonny Armstrong-USGS
Westslope cutthroat trout in the North Fork of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana – Jonny Armstrong-USGS

Lily Cullen, writing for the Hungry Horse News, posted a good summary of last week’s ‘river meeting’ at Flathead Forest headquarters. Several North Forkers were in attendance, as increasingly heavy river usage is becoming a significant issue locally (see, for example, older posts here and here) . . .

The Flathead National Forest has plans for a new Flathead River Wild and Scenic River plan, but it will probably take years to finalize new management policies for the three forks of the river, Hungry Horse/Glacier View district ranger Rob Davies said last week.

The plan will include updated standards for maximum river capacities and will designate launch points for half-day floats along the recreational stretches of the North, South, and Middle Forks of the Flathead River, Davies noted during a meeting of river stakeholders in Kalispell.

Crowds are a big issue for the Forest Service and Glacier National Park staff who manage the river. The standards for the ideal number of encounters on a river float — usually two to 10 per half-day float — haven’t changed since 1986. Rangers and volunteers monitor the North, Middle, and South forks during peak times in prime float season, and count the number of encounters on the water and on the shore. They also keep track of launch wait time. However, there’s no consequence or management plan for when the number of user encounters exceeds the standards, which are designed to measure the overall recreational experience.

Read more . . .

As Forest plan unfolds, a mountain bike-wilderness debate re-emerges

Mountain Biker by Mick Lissone
Mountain Biker by Mick Lissone

Here’s a pretty good article by Chris Peterson of the Hungry Horse News about bikes in wilderness — specifically, about allowing mountain bikes in a possible North Fork wilderness area . . .

As the Flathead National Forest puts the finishing touches on a final Forest plan, one issue is rising to the forefront: Should bicycle use be allowed in areas that are recommended wilderness?

Central to the debate is proposed wilderness in the North Fork. Under alternative B in the draft plan, there’s about 80,000 acres of recommended wilderness in the plan in the upper end of the Whitefish Range north of Red Meadow Creek. Recommended wilderness is generally managed as wilderness, but under alternative B, the plan would allow continued mountain bike use in the region.

Read more . . .

New specialty license plate features North Fork Flathead

'Wild Rivers' license plate featuring North Fork Flathead
‘Wild Rivers’ license plate featuring North Fork Flathead

American Rivers is behind a new Montana specialty license plate featuring the North Fork of the Flathead River . . .

How can license plates help river conservation? When you purchase a new “Wild Rivers” specialty license plate in Montana, the Northern Rockies Office of American Rivers receives a $25 donation that we use to protect wild rivers, restore damaged rivers, and conserve clean water for people and nature across the state.

American Rivers’ Northern Rockies Office commissioned Bozeman artist and outdoor athlete Rachel Pohl to create the stunning painting that appears on the plate, depicting the Wild and Scenic North Fork of the Flathead River along the western boundary of Glacier National Park. Rachel employs bold colors and vibrant imaging in her paintings, capturing the feel of mountain landscapes and making them jump off the canvas. The scene that she evokes in this painting is no different: A mother grizzly and two cubs overlook a whitewater rapid along the North Fork Flathead River, set beneath a fiery sunrise framing the Livingston Range.

Read more . . .

Death and life in the North Fork

Here’s a fascinating and moving video created by Henry Roberts from a series of game cam photos taken by North Forker Ray Brown. Thanks to Walter Roberts (no relation to Henry, I’d guess) for getting up on Facebook and giving this work the publicity it deserves. The sound track is from music by Josh Woodward. Highly recommended . . .

In February of 2014, Ray Brown of Polebridge, Montana came home to discover that wolves had killed an elk just off his driveway.

He set up a game camera near the carcass to see who might come back for it.

Three weeks went by.

The following photos are what he found — the inhabitants of the forest that helped return the carcass to the ecosystem.

Direct link to the video:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6BKurgZtvtw

Record low streamflows for North and Middle Fork

Creeks and rivers are very low across this corner of Montana . . .

The two primary tributaries of the Flathead River have the lowest streamflows on record for late August, further reflecting the extreme drought conditions that are tormenting the region in a year being defined by smoky skies and stingy weather.

Entering the final days of August, the Middle Fork Flathead River was running at 470 cubic feet per second, a new record surpassing the previous low set in 1940, according to the National Weather Service. The median flow for this time of year is 977 cfs.

The North Fork Flathead River was running at 628 cfs, surpassing the 2001 record low. The median flow is 1,260 cfs. The streamflows are the lowest since monitoring gauges were established 75 years ago, according to Ray Nickless, NWS hydrologist.

Read more . . .

Section of Flathead Forest in the North Fork closed due to threat from Marston Fire

It’s official. The Forest Service is closing an area of the Flathead National Forest in the North Fork as a precautionary measure in case the Marston Blaze comes over the Whitefish Divide. This is not terribly likely, but the fire weather is a big concern over the next couple of days.

As near as I can tell from the map, only two roads are affected. Trail Creek Road is now closed just west of the Tuchuck Campground. Whale Creek Road is closed about four miles past the turnoff for the Hornet Lookout. At present, Red meadow Road is unaffected.

See the map below for details. For a bigger version, you can view/download the PDF (1.26 MB). You can also download the text of the official closure order.

Look for more information coming from the Northeast Kootenai Complex Fire information folks fairly soon.

Marston Fire - FNF Area Closure, Aug 28, 2015
Marston Fire – FNF Area Closure, Aug 28, 2015

Celebrating Glacier National Park’s North Fork – Aug 24

From our friends at the National Parks Conservation Association . . .

Greetings, friends!

We’re planning a summer celebration of Glacier National Park’s North Fork, right on the riverbank the morning of Aug. 24.

Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines together will welcome Canada’s Consulate General Marcy Grossman to commemorate a truly historic transboundary and bipartisan alliance, forever protecting the communities and culture of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.

Places such as Waterton-Glacier and the North Fork Flathead River Valley do not happen by accident. They are choices that we make together – choices such as the recent Canadian and US legislation that protects our North Fork heritage. Please join us to celebrate the priceless gift of many more summers on the river! We’ll bring the coffee.

Details and directions below…

Celebrating Glacier National Park’s North Fork

Directions to Blankenship Bridge (for non-North Forkers):

  • Enter Columbia Falls on US Hwy 2
  • Turn north on Nucleus Avenue
  • Turn Right at the “T” intersection, onto Railroad Street
  • Continue 8.5 miles up the North Fork Road
  • Turn Right on Blankenship Road
  • Continue 2.4 miles to Blankenship Bridge
  • Cross the bridge; parking is on the left