Recreation

Access Sites on the Flathead River – Map

Teakettle – Located in Columbia Falls on Hwy 40, at Columbia Falls Bridge.

Kokanee Bend – 3 miles south of Columbia Falls on Columbia Falls Stage Rd.

Pressentine Bar - 7 miles northeast of Kalispell on Hwy 2, then east on Birch Grove Road.

Old Steel Bridge - From Hwy 35 east in Kalispell turn right on Shady Lane for 0.75 mile, then left on Kiawanis Lane for 0.5 mile.

Teakettle, Flathead River Fishing Access Site, Photo by Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Shady Lane - From Highway 35 on the east side of Kalispell turn on Shady Lane at mile post 123. South on Shady Lane to Conrad Dr and turn left. Park in the Old Steel Bridge FAS parking lot just before crossing the Old Steel Bridge, walk across the road and about 150 yards to the pond.

Leisure Island - Access from Leisure Drive by taking Conrad Drive east, then Willow Glen Drive south from Kalispell.

Foys Bend Fisheries Conservation Area – This 245-acre farm on the east side of the Flathead River was purchased to protect and restore riparian and upland habitats for the benefit of fish and wildlife and for public educational uses. A permit is required to fish, hunt, trap, or enjoy this property. Free permit can be obtained from Region One Fish & Wildlife Parks headquarters at 490 North Meridian Rd.  Access from Old Steel Bridge Road south to where it dead ends. For more information contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Kalispell at (406) 752-5501.

Church Slough River Access, county road - River access off Wagner Lane. See boating rules for Church Slough.

Therriault Road - Old ferry site off Riverside Road 4 miles south from Kalispell.

Sportsman Bridge - Boat ramp located on the Flathead River on State Highway 82, east of Somers and north of Bigfork.

Access Sites at Flathead Lake’s North Shore

Somers Lake Access - Seasonal boat ramp 1 mile south of Somers.

Flathead Lake Waterfowl Production Area - Located on Somers Road, taking State Highway 82 or US Highway 93. The park is closed each year from March 1 through July 15 for migratory and nesting birds.  For information contact U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lost Trail National Wildlife Refuge (406) 858-2218.

North Shore State Park - This 70-acre parcel is located near the Eagle Bend/Bigfork communities just east of the federal Flathead Lake Waterfowl Production Area along the North Shore of Flathead Lake. This parcel was purchased to protect and restore riparian/wetland and lakeshore habitats for the benefit of fish and wildlife. The park is open from July 16 through the end of February and is open for fall hunting with steel shot. It is closed to public access from March 1 through July 15 for protection of migratory and nesting birds. For more information contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Kalispell at (406) 751-5501.

Bigfork Fishing Access Site – Access on Flathead Lake off highway 35 at milepost 31.

Somers Fishing Access Site, photo by Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Somers Fishing Access Site. Photo by Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Suggested Floating Trips

Teakettle to Pressentine Bar
Length: approximately 11 miles
Trip duration: half day
Suitable craft: raft, dory, kayak, canoe
River rating: moving water
Hazards: high, fast, cold water in spring; some rocks and waves; a few log jams and downed trees

Pressentine Bar to Old Steel Bridge
Length: approximately 11 miles
Trip duration: half day
Suitable craft: raft, dory, kayak, canoe
River rating: moving waterHazards: high, fast, cold water in spring; some trees in the river
River type: braided channel

Old Steel Bridge or Leisure Island to Sportsman Bridge

Length: approximately 15 miles
Trip duration: full day if floating, shorter with motorized craft
Suitable craft: motor boat, kayak, canoe

River rating: moving water in spring and fall; flat water
Hazards: high, fast, cold water in spring; slack water in summer; distance between access points may cause problems in reaching takeout before dark
River type: meandering with oxbows

Boating, Floating & Kayaking

Whether you bring your own boat or rent locally, getting out on the Flathead River is a great way to experience this special place.

Boating Regulations: River bank erosion along the banks of the Flathead River and sloughs is increased by large and/or fast moving motor craft that produce a significant wake, particularly near shore. The shorelines of the Flathead River, particularly below the Old Steel Bridge, are fragile due to sandy soils, loss of riparian vegetation, natural currents, and the effects of Kerr dam on the river hydrology. To reduce your impact on the river, avoid high speeds, large wakes, traveling close to shorelines, or running watercraft repeatedly along the same section of river or slough as this greatly exacerbates river bank erosion. Special consideration is required along river banks that have been recently restored. For information on state boating laws visit Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Boating Regulations.

Boating rules for Church and Fennon Sloughs on the Flathead River: The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission adopted new boating rules in May 2011 for Church and Fennon sloughs. Church Slough will be closed to boating annually from March 1 to April 10 to protect resting waterfowl. Boating on Fennon Slough is restricted to no-wake speeds year-around to prevent shoreline erosion. For more information visit Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks news release.

 Preventing Aquatic Invaders: Invasive species can be introduced in our rivers and lakes with boats, trailers, and equipment that have been in contaminated waters. Zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, whirling disease, and New Zealand mud snails are a few of the destructive and aggressive invader species that threaten our waters. Once introduced, these can rapidly spread, threatening native plants and animals, agriculture, domestic water supplies and recreation. For information about preventing aquatic invaders or to help monitor local rivers and lakes visit the Northwest Montana Lakes Volunteer Monitoring Network.

Fishing & Hunting

Fishing Rules & Regulations: For information on rules and regulations and to obtain a fishing license contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Kalispell at (406) 751-5501 or visit Fishing.

Hunting Rules & Regulations: For information on rules and regulations and to obtain hunting licenses contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Kalispell at (406) 751-5501 or visit Hunting.

Fish Present: Black Bullhead, Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Bull Trout, Kokanee, Lake Trout, Lake Whitefish, Largemouth Bass, Largescale Sucker, Longnose Dace, Longnose Sucker, Mottled Sculpin, Mountain Whitefish, Northern Pike, Northern Pike Minnow, Peamouth, Pumpkinseed, Pygmy Whitefish, Rainbow Trout, Redside Shiner, Slimy Sculpin, Smallmouth Bass, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Westslope X Rainbow, White Sucker, Yellow Perch.

Special Note: Bull trout, a threatened species, and westslope cutthroat trout, a species of concern, use the Flathead, Stillwater and Whitefish rivers for migration and spawning. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has identified several wetlands and sloughs along the Flathead River with good riparian cover where bull and westslope cutthroat trout winter. The river is catch and release for cutthroat trout, but anglers should check the regulations as many tributary streams are closed to fishing to protect spawning bull trout and cutthroat trout. It is illegal to take or intentionally fish for bull trout.

Bird Watching

Bird watching while floating or walking along the Flathead River is a great way to enjoy and discover the river.

Bird facts: The riparian forests, wetlands and sloughs along the river support a wide diversity of birds, including nesting habitat for bald eagles, osprey, Canada geese, waterfowl, upland game birds, great blue herons and double-crested cormorants. During migration, 70% of migratory bird species use riparian habitat. The river corridor also provides excellent habitat for white-tailed deer, beaver, river otter, muskrats, and mink. Watch for tracks and signs of these while walking.

Bird watching: For information on birds and bird watching opportunities check the Birding Guide for the Flathead Valley, orvisit the Flathead Audubon Society website and its Local Birds page. You can print a list of birds you might see in your local area in February by visiting the Great Backyard Bird Count website.

Note: The River to Lake Initiative conservation efforts focus on protecting riparian and wetland habitats and adjacent uplands which are vital areas for providing habitat for an amazing diversity of bird species and maintaining clean water.

News & Events

Check the River to Lake Initiative’s News & Events for information about tours, workshops, recreational opportunities and other events.

Thwarting Aquatic Invaders