South Fork of the Flathead River

By Tristan Scott

The remote South Fork of the Flathead River is a scenic gem for anglers eager to avoid sharing their riverbank real estate with others and who wish to escape the boat-choked corridors that characterize other western Montana rivers.

The wild cutthroat fishery flows through the largest chunk of designated wilderness in the Lower 48, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, where enterprising anglers willing to navigate the gravel road along the Hungry Horse Reservoir will find riverside campsites, solitude and stacks of westslope cutthroat.

Access the lower South Fork by foot or horseback via the Meadow Creek Trailhead. The trail (TR 80) parallels the east bank of the river to Black Bear Creek.

The Meadow Creek Trail follows the rim of the Meadow Creek Gorge for the first three miles. The river in this area is dangerous to fish and most anglers begin fishing outside the gorge.

To reach the trailhead, take the East Side Road from Hungry Horse until it intersects with the West Side Road. Follow the West Side Road to the trailhead, approximately six miles from Hungry Horse Reservoir’s southern shore.

Fill the gas tank before leaving the town of Hungry Horse as there are no services in the wilderness. Expect a two-hour drive on a winding dirt road. If parking at the trailhead for an extended foray into the wilderness, pop your vehicle’s hood and prop it up with a stick – with the hood down, the vehicle becomes a haven for packrats, which will chew through your electrical wiring.

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