White water rafting in Montana with Glacier Raft Company

Wet and wild: White water rafting in Montana with Glacier Raft Company

Eight paddles slipped into the emerald water, synchronized to our guide’s commands. One, two, take a break.

A blanket of mist clung to the treetops where a majestic bald eagle gazed out, keeping watch as our sunshine-yellow boat navigated the waterway.

White water rafting in Montana with Glacier Raft Company

Straight ahead, adventure awaited: a series of rapids with names like Bonecrusher, Washboard and Jaws.

These short-but-sweet Class II-III rapids are the main draw for rafting in Montana, and the entire reason our crew was in Big Sky Country to explore these pristine waters with Glacier Raft Company.

White water rafting in Montana with Glacier Raft Company

Montana rafting trips with Glacier Raft Company

On this sunny, late-spring day, our group was floating down the Flathead River with Glacier Raft Co., which is based in West Glacier Village at the entrance of Glacier National Park.

The Montana raft company has been leading white water rafting trips since 1976 along the scenic Middle Fork and North Fork sections, offering everything from half and full day excursions with lunch or dinner to chill, scenic floats. 

Multi-day excursions are also offered, ranging from two-day river expeditions to four-day backcountry floats. Pricing starts at $599 per person, and customized adventures are also offered for groups.

Glacier Raft Company
Our guide Cam

Glacier Raft Company

Depending on water levels and which tour is booked, trips typically last two to five hours and the season runs from May to September.

While the water is colder earlier in the year (yes, guests are welcome to hop in for a refreshing plunge) this is also when the river is fastest which makes for more of an adrenaline rush–especially when tackling the rapids.

Flathead River rafting

The Flathead River borders Glacier National Park, an iconic American destination known for towering peaks, alpine meadows and the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road which is listed among the world’s most scenic (and challenging to drive) highways.

Since Glacier National Park white water rafting isn’t permitted, a day out with the high-spirited Glacier Rafting Co. crew is the best way to see the outskirts of the park from a different perspective. Keep your eyes peeled for deer, elk, ospreys and moose in the woods, and admire the colourful rocks nestled beneath the water’s glassy surface.

RELATED: This is why you’ll want to go camping in Glacier National Park

The Flathead River in Montana
The Middle Fork of the Flathead River

Movie buffs might recognize sections of the Flathead from The River Wild, as some scenes in the 1994 action flick starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Bacon were filmed in John Stevens Canyon which is near the end of the rafting route.

Another notable spot rafters get to float right under is the Old Belton Bridge, which is the West Glacier hangout spot.

Dating back to 1920, it once marked the entrance to Glacier National Park, and managed to survive ravaging floods in the 60’s (it has since been reinforced with a wooden trestle). Locals fondly refer to it as the ‘Old Bridge’ and come here to hang out, drink a cold beer after a day of adventures, and–if they’re feeling brave–jump off into the cold water nearly 50 feet below.

The Old Belton Bridge
The Old Belton Bridge

Now…about those rapids.

Over the course of the 16-mile stretch that full-day rafters get to float, there are about half a dozen solid sets of whitewater currents. While first-timers tend to be a bit tentative (especially if they happen to sit in the front of the boat which sees the most waves), you won’t find any gnarly Class IV or V rapids here.

While Pumphouse is the biggest wave that demands attention and some solid paddling to get through, the Glacier Rafting Co. guides are pros at navigating these waterways and ensuring everyone has a fun time. Get ready to shriek with delight as you head over crowd-favourite Jaws, and smile for the camera at the photo crew snapping away from the river bank as you tackle Bonecrusher.

One thing’s for certain…you will get wet.

Heading into Bonecrusher

Safety and sustainability on the water

Despite the Flathead River being outside of the park, there are regulations in place to protect this pristine environment while adding to the guest experience.

Not a single scrap is left behind after lunch or dinner is served along the river bank (because, well, bears), there isn’t a plastic water bottle in sight, and meals are served with reusable cutlery.

Grilling steaks for lunch on the river bank

Due to the Flathead River’s Wild & Scenic River designation, operators are only permitted to have 50 guests in sight of each other at a single time, which means you won’t find any conga lines of boats clogging up the river.

All equipment is provided for guests, and rafting trips operate rain or shine–something we experienced first-hand during our second trip with Glacier Rafting Company, which was scheduled for a frigid day where sideways rain pelted into our faces and hands went numb from the cold.

While it’s safe to say we all preferred our sun-soaked first outing much more, it was impressive to see how the crew ensured the safety of guests in the temperamental conditions, even stopping the raft to swap out drenched fleece jackets with cozy, down coats when the teeth-chattering got to be too much.

All geared up for a cold day on the water

Whitewater rafting in Montana is truly one of those experiences that offers something different every single time you do it, and an unforgettable way to see the beauty of Glacier National Park up close.

Prices for white water rafting Montana

  • Half day: $74/adult, $54/child
    Departures at 10 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:30 PM, 2:30 PM
  • With dinner: $104/adult, $84/child
    2 PM departure
  • Scenic float: $74/adult, $54/child
    Departures at 10 AM, 2 PM
  • Full day whitewater (includes BBQ lunch): $144/adult, $125/child
    Departs at 10 AM

14’ sport boats which hold 4-6 people are also available to rent for $699, with departures at 10 AM, 11:00 AM, 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM.

Book a Montana rafting trip:




Can’t get enough of the water? Try fly fishing along the Flathead with Glacier Anglers & Outfitters, which is the only river outfitter based in Montana permitted to fish the waterways of the Great Bear Wilderness. Daily and multi-day experiences are available for everyone from first-time anglers to seasoned pros.

Globe Guide explored West Glacier as a guest of Pursuit. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.



This post may contain affiliate links, which Globe Guide receives compensation for at no additional cost to you.

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