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North Fork Flathead River facts for kids

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North Fork Flathead River
The river at the boundary of Glacier National Park
Flathead River Map.png
Map of the Flathead River drainage basin showing the North Fork
Other name(s) North Fork of Flathead River, North Fork of the Flathead River
Country Canada, United States
Province British Columbia
State Montana
City West Glacier, Montana
Physical characteristics
Main source Clark Range
British Columbia, Canada
River mouth Flathead River
3,120 ft (950 m)
Length 153 mi (246 km)
  • Location:
    USGS gage #1235550, 4.1 miles (6.6 km) from the mouth
  • Minimum rate:
    190 cu ft/s (5.4 m3/s)
  • Average rate:
    2,976 cu ft/s (84.3 m3/s)
  • Maximum rate:
    69,100 cu ft/s (1,960 m3/s)
Basin features
Basin size 1,560 sq mi (4,000 km2)
  • Left:
    * Canyon Creek
    • South Fork Canyon Creek, Kimmerly Creek, Depuy Creek, McGinnis Creek

The North Fork Flathead River (Ktunaxa: kqaskanmituk ) is a 153-mile (246 km) river flowing through British Columbia, Canada, south into the U.S. state of Montana. It is one of the three primary forks of the Flathead River, the main inflow of Flathead Lake and a tributary of the Columbia River via the Clark Fork River and the Pend Oreille River. The river is sometimes considered the upper headwaters of the Flathead River, although the North Fork is its official name in the U.S. Other naming conventions for the river include Flathead River - North Fork, North Fork of Flathead River, and North Fork of the Flathead River.


Aerial - North Fork Flathead River (MT) 01 - white balanced (10322018694)
Aerial view of North Fork Flathead River (August 2013), roughly from the south. The river runs roughly from top center to bottom center. The transverse portion of the river near the middle of the image is south of Demers Ridge.

The river originates in a valley northeast of Lake Koocanusa in the Clark Range, and flows west. It then meets the Continental Divide and turns south, winding through a broad glacial valley. The river then crosses the Canada–US border into the state of Montana, where it begins to delineate the western boundary of Glacier National Park. Roughly following the "inner" and "outer" North Fork Roads and Montana Secondary Highway 486, the river winds southwest past Kintla Lake, Bowman Lake, Quartz Lake, Logging Lake, and Lake McDonald, then turns west and south into a narrower valley before joining the Middle Fork Flathead River near the southwestern entrance of the national park, several miles northeast of Columbia Falls. Less than 6 miles (9.7 km) below this confluence, the combined river joins the South Fork Flathead River, forming the main Flathead River.

Wild and Scenic River designation

Although the North Fork is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River (1975) in the United States, its greater length in BC (31 miles (50 km), not including headwaters forks) is not. Water in the BC section remains relatively pure as there are no permanent residents or livestock in this drainage north of the border.

Dam proposal

In the 1940s the Glacier View Dam was proposed, which would have flooded much of the river's valley between Glacier View Mountain and the Canada–US border. Supported by Flathead Valley interests, the dam and reservoir were opposed by the National Park Service, as between 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) and 20,000 acres (8,100 ha) of park lands would have been flooded. The proposed dam was cancelled by 1950.

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