Bob Marshall Packrafting 2016

Myself, family and friends headed into the Bob Marshall Wilderness for the last week of June. We planned a nice 172km hiking/packraft loop on the classic South Fork Flathead and North Fork Sun Rivers. The route was almost identical to a trip T and I did back in 2012 except this time we wanted to hike off-trail over Silvertip (like Forrest and Tom did that year). I was also hoping the low flows would let us paddle the final gorge of the NF Sun, which they did.

Here is a map of our route. If you want to use this map it can be found here.

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The video below tells the tale. We had 7 days of perfect weather. The long miles coaxed 2/3rds of our 10 person crew to opt for the more predictable route east over Pagoda, but 3 of went up Silvertip. 2 of us thought it was fantastic, while the 3rd felt the bushwacking that bookended this route largely offset the awesomeness of Silvertip. You can judge from the video (3:07 – 5:20) but the cameraman may have been a little biased in capturing less of the bushwacking and more of the alpine.

On the east side the NF Sun was flowing at a mere 240 CFS. I wasn’t sure if it was floatable, but thankfully for the numerous tired legs in our crew, it provided the bare minimum water to float and scrape down the river. Half our crew paddled into the last mile of the NF Sun where it was reported to be Class III/IV paddling. At these low flows it was solidly Class III with several 2-6′ drops and some nice boulder gardens.

We camped that night near Gibson Reservoir and hiked back to Benchmark. Quite a few folks found the trip quite hard, but also quite rewarding. At 62, my dad said it was hardest thing he’s ever done and he wished he’d pushed stuff like this more when he was younger.


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