North Fork of the Blackfoot packrafting

The trip today exceeded all expectations.  I had plenty of concerns going in, as the water was quite low and the only beta available called it a class V run during meltoff.  I went in with two very different reasons why I might end up portaging a ton or just giving up and hiking out.  From fishing last fall I did know that bailing would be easy, and I had a suspicion that there would be enough water.

I was very right.  A bit more water would have been ideal, as I spent a lot of energy on dodging rocks on the run in to many of the rapids.  The steeper and more constricted sections had plenty of water, and I can certainly see how with not too much more flow, things could get very rowdy indeed.  As it was I ran everything except one otherwise innocuous drop that didn’t have a single packraft sized gap in the diagonal line of boulders that made up the rapid.  Even more astonishing, only a single log (not logjam, just one log) across the river had to be portaged. 

This shot is from the horse trail, about halfway to the first packbridge and put in, and shows the heart and most difficult/fun section of the run.  I wrote about the nuts and bolts on the packrafting forum.  Very nice pool drop boulder gardens, great scenery, and today immaculately clear water.  

The biggest hazard was watching out for smaller boulders below the surface that were just enough to catch me up and send me off line going into the main drops.  This conditions was exacerbated by the scenery.  The second biggest hazard was not getting hooked by the dozen plus fly fishermans I floated past, most of whom didn’t notice me until I was almost even with them.  My boat is red, but you can’t hear much, and they can’t see many floaters out there.

Bonus hazard was a large adult black bear hanging out on a rock river right right next to one of the more precision drops (a four foot ledge into a four foot wide gap between boulders), with that one river wide log right below.  Fortunately the obvious eddy was on river left, as I don’t think the bear recognized me in boat as human, judging by the curious was he started to follow me down the bank.  He buggered off as soon as I stood up out of the raft.

This is the meat of the lower half, viewed from the road. 

I could not be more pleased with this run.  I found a gem, the kind of boating I like in a great setting, with just enough difficulty to stretch me without breaking.  I focused in and paddled well, using the abilities of the packraft to make most of the run with as little effort as possible.  Today also marked my first packraft repair: a bit of gravel must have gotten between the seat and floor as I went over a drop, and I ended up with a pinhole leak in the seat during the last hour.  More than a mere nuisance, stopping and reinflating a few times was mandatory.  You don’t want to take a butt shot from those boulders.

The project list grows longer all the time.

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5 thoughts on “North Fork of the Blackfoot packrafting

  1. Yep, so long as you or a horse carry them.I know, how are skis and rafts (and camp stoves, and..) not mechanized and bikes are.I actually saw Nevegal and Python tracks poaching into the Scapegoat on the horse trail. Not a very discrete choice, though if open the Bob would be an epic bikepacking destination.

  2. Guns and hunting are also allowed in wilderness areas I believe.Hang gliders are not allowed…?The decisions are all arbitrary and exclusionary. IOW, bs.However I do have mixed feelings about the bike ban in wilderness areas. As I told Jen on a recent backpacking trip; "You know we'd be seeing a lot more people in here if bikes were allowed."Ed

  3. Hey Dave,My name is Abe and I live in Alaska and go to school in Missoula. I was wondering about how to exactly to get to this stretch of river and if you had any other cool adventures on your mind packrafting wise. I've been rafting a bit up here in Alaska but haven't been out in MT. I was also looking to pick up a little beta on the south fork of the flathead if you know anything, I'm interested in that as well. Thanks

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