Whitefish and Stillwater Rivers Expected to Peak Later

By Beacon Staff

While the National Weather Service predicts Northwest Montana rivers to swell to flood stage by later this week, those on the Whitefish and Stillwater Rivers can breathe easy. At least for this week.

The National Weather Service River Forecast Center takes its reading for those two rivers at the mouth of the Whitefish River and at Lawrence Park in Kalispell for the Stillwater. While flows are slowly rising in both, neither is expected to crest until late May or June.

As of this morning, May 12, the Whitefish River is flowing at 387 cubic feet per second (cfs). At 4.04 feet, it’s running well below its flood stage of 8.5 feet. The National Weather Service predicts the river to rise slowly throughout May with peak flow occurring later in June. Hydrograph models suggest high flows reaching 850 cfs to 1265 cfs and the river cresting between 6.41 and 7.93 feet.

The Stillwater River, which also draws its waters from snow pack in the Whitefish Range, is expected to reach its peak starting in late May. However, without a lake like Whitefish acting as a holding pool, it may crest its banks then. The National Weather Service predicts it may reach 6.14 feet by this weekend and may climb as high as 7.87 feet by the end of the month. With flood stage at 7.5 feet, the Stillwater could see minor flooding.

Snow pack in the Whitefish Range is measured at Stahl Peak Snotel site at 6,030 feet in elevation. As of May 12, the snow depth still reached 188.2 inches with a snow water equivalent of 43.6—well above its 30-year average. At the south end of the range, Whitefish Mountain Resort recorded 426 inches that fell for the ski season with a final settled snow depth of 132 inches on April 6—the second deepest snow pack recording on closing day since the early 1990s.

You can watch your local river status at the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.