Clark Fork River Valley in Montana

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Clark Fork Valley

The Clark Fork Valley covers a large portion of western Montana as it cuts through spectacular mountain ranges and national forests, providing a mix of recreational activities, attractions, and local history.

  • The valley follows the Clark Fork River from its origins near Butte to northern Idaho. 
  • From Missoula, travel west on I-90 and MT-200, or east on I-90. 
  • Fish and float the Clark Fork River, or swim, sail or boat on one of its reservoirs. 
  • Recreate in one of three national forests. 

Overview

The Clark Fork Valley contains the 360-mile long Clark Fork River from its source near Butte, MT all the way to Pend Oreille Lake, in northern Idaho. Due to its extensive length, the Clark Fork Valley contains a variety of geological features, terrain, wildlife species, and communities.

Popular valley activities include fishing, floating and rafting the Clark Fork River, sailing, swimming and boating on the river’s dammed tributaries, recreating in several national forests and mountain ranges, and city-based activities in the towns within its corridor.

Driving Directions

From Missoula, you can explore the valley in both northwesterly and southeasterly directions. For the western portion of the valley, travel west on I-90 and MT-200. For the eastern end of the valley, travel east on I-90 towards Butte. For those who want to explore the entire valley, start in Butte and follow I-90 and MT-200 W until you reach Lake Pend Oreille, or begin in Lake Pend Oreille and follow the route in reverse order, heading southeast.

Time/Distance

The drive from Missoula to Lake Pend Oreille is 161 miles and takes roughly three hours. Missoula to Butte is 120 miles and takes roughly 2 hours. Butte to Lake Pend Oreille is 282 miles and takes roughly 5 hours.

Highlights

  • Fish and float the Clark Fork River and its many tributaries.
  • Take to the trails in Lolo, Coeur D’Alene, and Kanisku National Forests.
  • Boat, fish, swim, and water-ski at Thompson Falls Reservoir, Noxon Reservoir, Lake Pend Oreille and more.
  • Stop at historical sites once visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition
  • Whitewater raft Alberton Gorge.
  • See one of several Clark Fork River dams.
  • Visit the Old Jail Museum in Thompson Falls.

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