A spectacular backcountry flight, more wildlife than people, and striking emerald-aqua water beckons from Montana’s Big Sky country. Thanks to simple logistics and only one other commercial outfitter, the Middle Fork Flathead is our most affordable trip on a pristine wilderness river. Enjoy the thrilling whitewater, hike to a mountain lake, fish for native trout, and relax around camp for five glorious days in the Great Bear Wilderness of Montana.

Similar Trips:
South Fork Flathead •  Middle Fork Salmon •  Main Salmon

Departure Month: July, June
Region: Montana
Rating: Beginner, Intermediate
Pricing: Above $2000, Between $1500 and $2000

The Middle Fork Flathead, one of the little known jewels of whitewater, is a beautiful 35-mile river journey through the Great Bear Wilderness. The Great Bear, Bob Marshall, and Scapegoat Wilderness areas make up the third largest wilderness complex in the lower 48.  Together with Glacier National Park directly to the north, the Bob Marshall Complex forms the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem.  Largely unimpeded by human tinkering, wildlife is plentiful, including grizzly bears, lynx, wolverine, moose, and mountain goats.

The journey begins with a breathtaking flight into Schafer Meadows, a backcountry airstrip nestled in the middle of the wilderness.  After several miles of scenic floating we enter the first rapid series, Three Forks.  While earlier trips offer exciting whitewater thrills between quiet pools, later dates provide better fishing opportunities as the water drops and turns magnificent shades of emerald and aqua. The Middle Fork has an average gradient of about 35 feet per mile, which translates to punchy Class III-IV rapids on earlier trips and boulder garden rapids during lower flows. We bring oar boats, paddle boats, and at lower water, inflatable kayaks.

Five days and 35 miles means plenty of time to hike, fish the fat and feisty Cutthroat trout at Castle Lake, view wildlife, or simply relax. Accessible only by plane and trail, the Middle Fork Flathead is a true wilderness experience.

5 days, 35 miles
Class III-IV whitewater

Great hiking vistas of high Montana peaks

Waterfalls & beautiful side streams

Mountain lakes, streams and quiet pools for fishing

Incredible wildlife habitat for bears, mountain goats, moose and eagles

Lush landscape and wildflower meadows


June 14 – 18
June 21 – 25
June 28 – July 2
July 5 – 8 (likely Granite Creek put in option with hike or horseback ride in)

Other dates available upon request for groups of 8 or more

5 – Day Trip ~ $2200.00*
*Price includes all US Forest Service Fees

Included: We provide transportation from Kalispell to the river and back to Kalispell at the end of the trip. All meals beginning with lunch on the first day and ending with lunch on the last day. Use of our sleeping bags, pads, and tents, dry bags, PFDs and wetsuits. If you choose to use your own camping gear there is a $40 discount.

Not Included: Hotel reservations before and after your trip or guide gratuities.

Group discounts based upon the number of people in your party.
Child discounts available. Ask for details.
Charter Trips:
Charter trips are available for groups of 8 or more. This means your group has reserved the entire trip.

Reservations can be made by calling our office at 800.252.6581.

Payment: A 25% non-refundable deposit is required to reserve your spot. The remainder is due 45 days prior to trip departure. We will send you a trip packet including general information on your trip, your invoice and statement, gear list, and medical and liability waiver forms that you will need to return to our office.

Cancellation and Refunds: Operating quality trips is a costly operation with no margin for losses resulting from late cancellations. The space you reserve is held for you, and this may mean turning others away. Each trip is planned for the number of reserved spaces, guides engaged, supplies bought, rafts and vehicles assigned. If notice of cancellations is made more than 45 days prior to departure, you may transfer to any other trip in the same season without penalty. Otherwise the cost is non-refundable.

Travel Insurance: We strongly recommend that you protect yourself with a short term traveler’s insurance policy. Trip cancellation will cover your losses on non-refundable air and land cost on unexpected cancellations.

Cancelled Trips: We reserve the right to cancel a trip due to insufficient reservations, weather, or water conditions. In such cases, a full refund for the trip is given. If possible, we will offer an option of a different trip of comparable type.


Before the trip:
Fly commercially into Kalispell, Montana. Delta, Alaska/Horizon, United, Alegiant, Frontier and US Airways offer flights into Glacier National Airport.  The Red Lion Hotel (1-800-547-8010) will provide transportation from the airport to Kalispell.  Give them a call from the airport as soon as you arrive as it is a 20-minute drive to the airport.

We will have an orientation meeting at 6:00pm at the Red Lion Hotel in Kalispell the night before the trip to meet everyone, distribute waterproof bags for your personal gear, and answer any last minute questions. We will also distribute WRO cups and t-shirts.

We will pick you up at the Red Lion around 8:00am.  We provide transportation to the river via a scenic flight to Schaffer Meadows, a backcountry airstrip in the Great Bear Wilderness.

Motel Before and After:
Make your reservations at the Red Lion Hotel (1-800-547-8010) or Four Seasons (1-406-755-6123) in Kalispell for the evening before and after your trip.

After the trip:
We provide transportation back to the hotel in Kalispell where we typically have an optional farewell dinner that evening.

Suggested reading:
Montana’s Bob Marshall Country by Rick & Susie Craetz.  Provides good and concise information on “The Bob”, especially the sections on wildlife and history.

Sample Itinerary

Day before the trip: Arrive in Kalispell, MT.  In the evening, we’ll get together to hand out dry bags, WRO cups and T-shirts, and answer any last minute questions.

Day 1: We’ll get an early start for our flights to Schaefer Meadows.  The first few miles are a slow warm up before lunch.  After lunch, we’ll be in the Three Fork Rapid Series, a couple miles of continuous class III and IV whitewater.

Day 2-4: Our trips are very flexible so that each one is tailored to the group.  There will be time for hiking, fishing, looking for wildlife, floating casually, running rapids, and almost anything else you can think up.

Day 5: The last day brings us to the second big stretch of whitewater, the Spruce Park Gorge.  We’ll have several miles of good class III-IV water before lunch.  After the gorge we’ll have lunch, then a beautiful float down to the takeout with Glacier National Park on the right and Great Bear Wilderness on the left.  This is a great place to spot mountain goats.  The drive back to Kalispell takes a little over an hour.

Middle Fork of the Flathead River Suggested Gear

Download Printable Check List


This is the suggested gear list for this particular trip. Having the right gear is important to making it the best possible experience for you. Most of the gear listed you will have or you can use it year-round on any outdoor excursion (football games, boating, skiing, etc.) We want you to have everything you will need to be comfortable and happy.

Please: no stereos, radios, cell phones or watches

GEAR PROVIDED – we provide LIFE JACKETS, 2 WATERPROOF DUFFEL BAGS (one for sleeping bag, pad & ground cloth, and one for clothing), WATERPROOF DAY BAG for items you would like accessible during the day (dry shirt, sunblock, camera, etc.), and WETSUITS.  We provide SLEEPING BAGS, PADS, AND TENTS.


RAIN GEAR… Good jacket and pants, ponchos aren’t enough. AVOID VINYL & CHEAP PLASTICS.

2 LIGHTWEIGHT SHIRTS…one long sleeved.

1 PAIR LONG PANTS…synthetics are best

2 PAIR SHORTS…synthetics dry faster – good to wear over swimsuit.

SWIMSUIT…nylon is best because it dries faster.

CAP TO BLOCK SUN, & WOOL OR SYNTHETIC HAT for cool evenings…a must for everyone.  In case of wind, attach with a tie or clip.

GLOVES OR MITTENS…synthetic or wool in case of cold weather.

2 WARM SHIRTS…wool or polar fleece (2)

LONG UNDERWEAR…Polypro or Capilene (not cotton) tops & bottoms.

WARM JACKET…synthetic piles are popular because they are warm even when damp.

FOOTWEAR: The comfort of your feet will make a big difference in your enjoyment of the trip!

HIKING BOOTS or STURDY RUNNING SHOES …for hikes and in camp. No brand new boots please.

SOCKS…3-4 pair, 2 warm, 1 thin, fleece socks are also nice for in camp.

RIVER SANDALS (OR ADDITIONAL RUNNING SHOES FOR WATER) & NEOPRENE SOCKS… this is the best combination we’ve found for keeping your feet warm and safe on the river.

SUNGLASSES AND TIES FOR GLASSES…protects against glare.  Pack an extra pair of glasses or contacts.

SUNBLOCK…maximum strength sun block & moisture lotion.



FLASHLIGHT…small one is fine, headlamps work great.


CAMERA…and an extra battery.  Most people find one battery is not sufficient for a trip.

SMALL DAY OR FANNY PACK…for side excursions.

ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE…if desired (unbreakable containers).

BINOCULARS (optional)

Wilderness River Outfitters provide a MAJOR FIRST AID KIT.  However, we do recommend you bring your own preferred personal medications and accessories (Advil, Tylenol, aspirin, Band-Aids and cold medicine).

Reviews from the Middle Fork of the Flathead River Trip

Seth and crew are a classy outfit. I have paddled all over the country (the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Southeast, Cali) and the guides at WRO were not only smooth operators on the Flathead but they were also some of the most considerate people I met in 2017. It’s amazing to watch a guide let a goof ball who didn’t bring water shoes borrow his chacos and splash top.
Joe B is who I want to be when I grow up!!

~ Crisler Torrence (Middle Fork Flathead – 2017 facebook review)

Just wanted to let you know that we had a wonderful trip down the Middle Fork of the Flathead with your daughter and her crew.  They were not only a competent crew, but one heck of a good time to boot.
~Gary Peterson (Middle Fork Flathead )

Five great days on the Flathead river with some good friends and great guides.  We took a remarkable hike to the top of Vinegar Mountain.  We ate like kings and enjoyed some of the most incredible scenery outside of Glacier National Park, including a breathtaking encounter with a mountain goat and her kid as we rounded one of the last turns of the trip.  Won’t forget this trip ever!
~Willie Baronet (Middle Fork Flathead)

The scenery was world class and the crew did a terrific job of guiding and taking care of us city folk.  Joe Biby was a wonderful head guide.  All in all a memorable week.
~Nathan Wisenfeld  (Middle Fork Flathead)

The peacefulness of the wilderness, the lack of other people on the river, the quality of all the WRO guides and their respect for the wilderness, diversity of activities really made our trip. It was a treat to go with an organization of WRO quality and principles.
~John Kugler  (Middle Fork Flathead)

This was a life changing experience. I attribute it to the exquisite isolation on this river. The guides made our trip – they satisfied the varied interest, they interacted and communicated with us in a very genuine and personal way. They were easy with an eye on our safety at all times.
~Melinda Hereford  (Middle Fork Flathead)

This was one of our favorite vacations and on we will never forget. Kyle Tom and Jesse were wonderful. The food was excellent and they could tell you anything about geology of the area, birds, animals, trees, plants, etc. We appreciate the time they took to let us hike, rappel, kayak and fish.
~Jeanna Blackburn  (Middle Fork Flathead)

The guides can cook better on a open fire than we can on a stove.
~Wayne & Amy Allen  (Middle Fork Flathead)

You guys really make this a fantastic trip I thought really hard to find something for you to improve on but came up empty.
~Veronica Vanderstoep  (Middle Fork Flathead)

This was one of our favorite vacations and one we will never forget.
~Doug Blackburn  (Middle Fork Flathead)