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Flathead National Forest stretches along the spine of the Rocky Mountains south from the Canadian border for more than 120 miles. With parts of its eastern and northern boundaries bordering Glacier National Park, the forest shares much of the park's spectacular scenery of high ridges and mountains. Its principal rivers are the Swan, Stillwater and the three forks of the Flathead—the North Fork, Middle Fork and South Fork, all in the National Wild and Scenic River system. This is augmented by 3,400 miles of streams and many small lakes.
Almost half the national forest's approximately 2.3 million acres lies within the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, which includes the Bob Marshall, Great Bear and Scapegoat wilderness areas. The combined 1.5 million acres attracts those who seek out a challenging recreation experience in a natural setting where mechanized travel and equipment are prohibited.
Popularly known as the “Bob,” the Bob Marshall Wilderness straddles the Continental Divide. There are many rugged peaks, alpine lakes, mountain valleys, meandering streams, wildflower-strewn meadows and waterfalls. Sunsets often are highlighted by long streamers of wave-shaped clouds, a phenomenon created partly by strong winds blowing perpendicular to a mountain range.
For those seeking utter solitude, winter use of the “Bob” is almost nil. This vast reserve, appropriately named for the man who helped preserve millions of acres of the wilderness system, shelters one of the country's largest wildlife populations, including elk, bighorn sheep, black bears and several hundred grizzly bears. About 50 outfitting and guiding businesses serve the area.
Other areas of interest in the forest are Mission Mountain Wilderness and Hungry Horse Reservoir, along the shores of which are almost half of the forest's camping and picnic areas. The 15,000-acre Jewel Basin Hiking Area, reached by forest roads from SRs 83 or 35, is a scenic area of rushing waterways, open meadows and subalpine forests; mechanized vehicles and pack animals are not permitted. Hiking, fishing and floating the three forks of the Flathead River are popular activities.
Information about the forest's 31 campgrounds and recreational opportunities is available at the forest headquarters in Kalispell and at district ranger stations. For further information contact the Supervisor's Office, Flathead National Forest, 650 Wolfpack Way, Kalispell, MT 59901; phone (406) 758-5204.
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Current Location: Flathead National Forest, Montana