Kalispell and northwest Montana are surrounded by incredible lakes, rivers and streams. South of Kalispell, you’ll find Flathead Lake and the Swan River. To the northeast, you’ll quickly come upon the Middle, North and South forks of the Flathead River. Farther northwest are the massive waters of Lake Koocanusa and a variety of mountain streams. No matter which direction you go, you’ll be greeted with glacial-fed waters that are ideal for on-the-water recreation, from scenic floats to fly-fishing and sailing to whitewater rafting trips.
Flathead Lake, 10 minutes south of Kalispell, is a massive playground for water recreation, including year-round kayaking, lake fishing, boating, guided boat tours and sailing. Along the lakeshore, you’ll also find fruit orchards, small towns and state parks. Additional popular lake locations include Whitefish Lake, Lake Mary Ronan, Lake Koocanusa and Lake McDonald.
If moving water is more your speed, there are ample opportunities for that, too. The Middle Fork of the Flathead River is a prime destination for whitewater rafting, scenic floats and fly-fishing. The river flows along the southern edge of Glacier National Park, giving floaters a distinct perspective of the park. With many rivers that run through Kalispell’s backyard, it’s no wonder that fly-fishing and Montana go hand in hand. Our clear streams, rivers and lakes are home to healthy populations of bull trout, rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, and you’ll see fly-fishermen (and women) out on the water at all times of day and during all times of year.
While you can hit the waters of Montana on your own (be sure you purchase a Montana fishing license and familiarize yourself with fishing regulations), one of the best ways to experience our incredible blue-ribbon fly-fishing and lake fishing is to book a trip with a seasoned outfitter or guide. Once you’re in Kalispell, stop by True Water Fly Shop to get the latest fishing report and pick up fly-fishing gear before hitting the river. In town, be sure to visit Pine Grove Pond, a 5-acre pond that’s perfect for families of all ages and is ADA-accessible.
When recreating in Montana, help protect our waters by following the three steps of Clean, Drain, Dry to minimize the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species into new locations.
Clean: Completely remove all mud, water, and vegetation from your watercraft, trailer and equipment before leaving the water access area.
Drain: All water from watercraft and equipment.
Dry: Your watercraft and equipment. Aquatic invaders can survive only in water and wet areas. All watercraft (motorized and non-motorized) must stop at open inspection stations. Non-residents must be inspected and purchase a Vessel AIS prevention pass.