High, fast, muddy rivers expected through the weekend

Jun 20, 2014

Rock slide above the Loop on the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. Recent wet weather caused slides and some flooding in Glacier Park.
Credit flickr/GlacierNPS

Record breaking rains in the Flathead keep the rivers high and caused the National Weather Service to call for caution. The National Weather Service is calling for the clearing skies of Thursday to continue over the next couple of days with a high pressure system coming in, and temperatures moving up from the 40’s of mid-week, to the 80’s. However, it is also calling for rivers and streams to remain high and muddy through the weekend with the greatest concern the North, Middle, and main stems of the Flathead River.

Meteorologist Luke Robinson said they’re not expected to crest flood stage.

“Most of the runoff has already occurred, and the rivers have crested as high as they’re going to get, and they’re steadily dropping,” Robinson said.

Co-owner of Glacier Outdoor Center and Raft Company Jeff Baldelli said June is kind of like this.

“Right now the rivers, they’re pretty muddy. They’re really dark muddy. You know, you’ll see some debris. This time of year it’s common to see logs, trees, floating down the river, and those are definitely something that you have to look out for when you are on the river because, those are pretty much the biggest hazards right now,” Baldelli said.

The West Glacier based business runs guided raft trips down the Middle Fork of the Flathead River and fishing trips on the Middle and North Forks of the Flathead River through the summer. Baldelli said they haven’t had to cancel any trips. But they’re guiding any fishing trips in the rivers.

“We’ve kind of decided to not fish the rivers; we fish more of the lakes. There’s a few lakes around here that are really fun and productive in the spring, and it’s just kind of too dirty in the river to waste our time fishing there,” Baldelli said.

The Kalispell area broke records this week for the amount of rainfall. Tuesday a record of 1.45 inches of rain fell, and on Wednesday 1.16 inches of rain fell, breaking the old record of .78 set in 1939.

Baldelli said they’re main season really kicks off this weekend and runs through August, with fishing trips continuing into the fall. He said more than the weather forecast, they’ll be looking at the when the muddy waters give way to clear currents.

“This is just part of the cycle, and we’ve had years where it rained quite a bit. So, it is the rainiest month of the season, and we still go rafting. My partner, Darwon Stoneman; he always has a quote that he says, he says anybody can go rafting in the sunshine, but it takes a real river warrior to get out there in the rain.” Baldelli said.

Robinson said the rain, and lingering snowpack are reasons why the rivers will keep running high and fast for the next several days. He said in the Flathead, snowpack is a little over 2-hundred-percent of normal. Robinson said the rivers should be back to near normal for this time of year by the beginning of next week.