Kalispell is located in the Flathead Valley between the West Glacier entrance and Big Flathead Lake. Kalispell has a population of 12,000 and is located on Montana’s most dangerous road, the 93 Highway. In fact no sooner had I left Kalispell, I ran into slow traffic. I was caught in the traffic jam for only a minute or two before an ambulance came racing up from behind. In another 10 minutes I passed the accident just as they were loading the injured into the ambulance
As best as I can figure there are more people on this road then most of Montana’s other roads. The shoulder next to the road is almost nonexistent. People think they can drive as fast on this road as they do in the rest of Montana. Combine this with bad weather and you have a formula for an accident. The road from West Glacier to Kalispell passes through some interesting areas. This area compared to the rest of Montana is comparatively crowded.
I must have seen at least 20 different cherry and huckleberry stands along this portion of the road. Some of this fruit is trucked in from Washington state but most of it is actually grown near the shores of Big Flathead Lake. The climate must remain warm enough in the winter for some crops due to the slow release of the heat from the lake. Some of the fruit stands were even offering to pay people for huckleberries that they had picked. Late July and August are the best time for the fresh fruit. On the way to Kalispell from the West Glacier Park entrance I also passed by several family attractions. I saw a couple of carnivals, 2 bumper car tracks, and the “World’s Longest Maze”.
Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. It is the largest freshwater lake in the Western United States. It is 28 miles long and its shoreline covers 124 miles. This lake resembles Lake Tahoe in a way. There are tall mountains on the eastern side that rise quite high. There has been some talk of a large or several large creatures that inhabit this lake. Sightings of a long undulating thing with dark skin have been recorded since 1889 when someone tried to shoot it. In 1993 there were 13 sightings. The people who have seen it always describe a long wake, and a serpent like creature.
This part of Montana is glacier country but I only saw that pretty glacial aquamarine and green colored water once. This was in the Flathead River which flows into Big Flathead Lake. The glaciers are much smaller in Montana then they are in Jasper and Banff National Parks in Canada. This means that the silt is not ground and pulverized as much in Montana as it is in Canada. It is this silt and sediment that causes the water to have that distinctive glacial color. Visit the convention & visitor’s bureau: www.fcvb.org
Wild River Adventures – A river rafting company that offers river rafting trips is Wild River Adventures based in West Glacier. They offer full and half day river rafting trips. These trips occur on the middle fork of the Flathead River. This is the river that has been captured in the film The River Wild, starring Meryl Streep. The half day trip is 8 miles on mild to wild parts of the Flathead. For all the rides you will be in their Self Bailing Rafts.
The full day trip a 15 mile raft trip complete with some extremely wild whitewater. The Comfy Rafter package is included in this trip which is a wetsuit, neoprene socks, river-shoes, a pullover, and a guide style splash jacket.
Wild River Adventures even offers two and three day get-a-ways. These trips are held on either the north fork or the middle fork of the Flathead River. The middle fork is more known for some of the finest whitewater in Montana. The north fork is more known for its spectacular scenery and wildlife.
Several other options are also offered for those who resist the conventional rafting trips. These options are the Evening Dinner, the Wild Side, and the Scenic Side option. The dinner trip includes an afternoon of rafting topped off by a delicious riverside BBQ featuring sirloin steak or halibut, a fresh salad and home baked goodies. Yum! All you need is an appetite and a thirst for celebrating the good life.
The Wild Side is for river diehards, hardcore water enthusiasts. This trip requires your full participation but rewards those who desire maximum river thrills. Class 4 rapids here. Prices include the guide/ instructor, complete wetsuit package and your helmet.
Lastly, the Scenic option is a trip where you travel by kayak or raft through clear smooth waters. This trip skips all the thrills or dangers of the whitewater. This trip departs at 1:30 in the afternoon.