“It’s clean and green–the best time of year for floating the Whitefish River,” said Mike Block who canoed the route a few evenings ago with Ann Piersall.
As high water washes winter’s accumulated detritus downstream and spring greenery spills down its banks, the waterway provides a quick river fix for those looking to let their cares slip away with the current. It’s also one of the best spots for June birding in Whitefish.
A cacophonic symphony of cheereeps, trills, and ca-ca-caws accompanies floaters. “It’s nice with two people, because you have one person to stabilize the boat while you steady binoculars on the birds,” noted Block. He and Piersall watched yellow warblers, red-winged blackbirds, hooded mergansers, eastern kingbirds, sparrows, swallows, a bald eagle that was molting, and even a beaver. Sometimes, a river otter or two swims alongside.
Check out the slice of meandering waterway running from Whitefish Lake to Highway 40 on any evening, as a steady parade of kayakers, canoers, and a sluggish raft or two ply the flat water route. During high water, you can paddle the stretch in 90 minutes or lazily drift the crawling current in three hours. Launch from City Beach to paddle the shoreline south to the outlet where the river heads through town. Leave a vehicle where the river crosses under the Highway 40 approximately 1.5 miles east of Highway 93.
You can float the river all summer, but as the water level drops, the current turns lethargic and shoreline snags entail navigation. South of Highway 40, log jams clog the river, precluding safe travel. “It’s a beautiful riparian zone,” said Block. “We’re lucky to have it so close.”