While our river is steadily evolving from the "Middle Fork of the Flathead" into its late summer form of the "Mellow Fork of the Flatwater", there are still white water thrills to be had just south of us. In the sleepy lakeside hamlet of Bigfork, Montana, lies a little stretch of the Swan River that is known as the Wild Mile. It starts just below the Bigfork Dam and runs for exactly a mile downstream before emptying out into the peaceful Bigfork Marina.
At high water, the section is considered a Class V according to American Whitewater (classes range from I-VI, V being pretty hairy and consequential, and VI being un-runnable). As the water gets lower, the section starts to run only on Wednesday evenings, when the dam has their scheduled release from 5 to 9 PM (a group of local whitewater enthusiasts actually lobbied for this release day and time to be able to kayak it!)
A week and a half ago, we got word that the water had dipped so low that the next release would likely be the last of the season. So, being the adventure-seekers we are, we grabbed our paddles, spread the word to anyone else that might be interested, packed Babou the boat into our Samurai, and high-tailed it down to Bigfork after work on a beautiful Wednesday evening.
Babou is a great boat. She's a Hyside Mini-Max, measuring roughly 10'6" by 5' and weighing only 67 pounds of high strength, totally bomber Hypalon rubber. She'll fire up nearly anything, and is a breeze to inflate, carry, and paddle. You should buy one.
We had some coworkers along in a larger (and eventually overladen) boat. It was nice to have another boat there in case something went wrong. We also saw a solid amount of kayak traffic, and got some good beta (local info) about a dangerous tree on the lower half of the run. Thanks, locals!
The water being so low (944 cfs), we can't responsibly say that it was Class V when we ran it. I would classify it as bouncy class III with a few very forgiving class IV- drops peppered in between. However, it was a lot of intense and non-stop fun in warmer water than we're used to (the section we raft on the Middle Fork of the Flathead is snow and glacier melt…so it's quite chilly!).
On our second of three runs we invited our friend Amber into the boat. Towards the end of the run we hiked back up the river to run a ledge drop that was blocked off by the aforementioned tree that the locals warned us about. Made for good fun, and we got a decent little surf out of it as well.
No rafting adventure is complete without a dirtbag shuttle - we must have crammed 10+ people into this poor little Tacoma. All in all, a great day on the river. Stay tuned for more blog posts, we're aiming for an update every Monday. Thanks for reading, now go have your own adventure!