Study: More than 6,300 floated Middle Fork in summer 2017

Print Article

Rafters mug for the camera at the bonecrusher rapid on the Middle Fork of the Flathead in this file photo. The section of the river from Moccasin Creek to West Glacier is the busiest in the Flathead.

A new report of river usage in the Flathead River system confirms what many had long suspected: That river use on certain sections of the rivers in peak summer months gets very busy.

A study of river usage in the summer of 2017 found that just below Moccasin Creek on the Middle Fork of the Flathead, on average, 136.5 watercraft hit the river per day. In August, that number dropped to about 93.3 watercraft per day. All told, 5,411 watercraft floated the river below Moccasin Creek in the 60 days that the counter was up, the study found, with an average of 867 floaters taking to the water per day in July and about 573 per day in August.

The busiest day ever came in August, the study found, with 1,195 people counted floating the Middle Fork below Moccasin.

All told, 5,411 watercraft were counted below Moccasin in 60 days, while 6,307 were counted below the Quarter Circle Bridge on the lower portion of the river, which runs through a canyon en route to its confluence with the North Fork at Blankenship, but it doesn’t have any whitewater. The Quarter Circle count, however, was 38 days longer than the Moccasin.

The numbers make sense — the roughly 7.5 mile stretch from Moccasin to West Glacier is where the four raft companies in West Glacier take the bulk of their clients in the summer months. The lower Middle Fork is also a popular spot for raft companies as well, where as families and guides float that stretch for scenic, but less adventurous, beauty.

The upper North Fork of the Flathead was much quieter.

Counters near Ford Cabin recorded about 31 rafters per day, about 20 per day at Wurtz cabin and about 22 per day at Polebridge. In August, the numbers were lower, with 14 per day at Ford, about 4 per day at Wurtz and 5.6 at Polebridge.

Fires were burning in Glacier National Park by August 2017, but the study found air quality didn’t seem to bother rafters.

The data was collected using game cameras from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. hidden along the bank of the river at each location. The crew then analyzed the frames to determine the number of craft, the number of people and whether they were commercial rafts or not, though the final report doesn’t distinguish between commercial use or private use.

The study was conducted by Iree Wheeler, Douglas Dalenberg, Jennifer Thomsen and Wayne Freimund of the University of Montana College of Forestry. Freimund, however, now teaches at Clemson University.

Data will continue to be collected for the next several years with more counters in place in more locations on the river system.

The 2018 data is not yet available. The report notes that it took about five months to go through all the footage and compile the data and despite efforts to camouflage them, one camera was stolen.

The study was paid, in part, through a grant from the Glacier National Park Conservancy.

Print Article

Read More Front Page Slider

Another lawsuit to challenge Forest plan

April 17, 2019 at 7:25 am | Hungry Horse News Two environmental groups have filed suit against the Forest Service and other federal agencies claiming the new Flathead National Forest plan doesn’t do enough to protect grizzly bears and bull trout...

Comments

Read More

School board green lights Boys and Girls Club

April 17, 2019 at 7:25 am | Lake County Leader The Columbia Falls School District 6 board voted to move forward with pair of projects near Ruder Elementary Monday, electing to give preliminary approval to put aside land there for a new Boys and G...

Comments

Read More

Wyoming man named new junior high principal

April 17, 2019 at 7:13 am | Lake County Leader Columbia Falls Junior High students will have a new principal in the fall as School District 6 has hired Doug Hazen to fill the position while current principal Dave Wick serves as president of the N...

Comments

Read More

Glacier names Yellowstone chief ranger as new deputy super

April 11, 2019 at 11:42 am | Lake County Leader The chief ranger at Yellowstone National Park has been named Glacier National Park’s next deputy superintendent. In his new role at Glacier, Pete Webster will be responsible for leading the park’s...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 892-2151
PO BOX 189, 926 Nucleus Avenue
Columbia Falls, MT 59912

©2019 Hungry Horse News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X