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A BASTION OF BIODIVERSITY …
PLENTY OF ROOM TO GET AWAY FROM IT ALL …
A HAVEN FOR ENDANGERED ANIMALS AND PLANTS …
According to this definition, the Whitefish Range makes up one cohesive mountain range with three names. These ranges are not separate geographically isolated entities and if it weren’t for the border designation it would be difficult to distinguish between one named range or another.
Perhaps it is best to think of this area as a corridor. Native Americans and white trappers certainly saw it this way as do the bear, wolves and ungulates that call this area home. Modern day fisheries management requires being sensitive to the effects of regulation on each side of the border as what happens in the Ten Lakes Scenic area effects the Wigwam River fishery and what happens in Canada’s Flathead Valley effects Montana’s Flathead River fisheries.
The corridor, known as The Whitefish Range in Montana is also known as the MacDonald and Galton Ranges in Canada, is located in Northwestern Montana and Southeastern British Columbia and is part of the Rocky Mountains.
Understand the many names in the range is really an exercise in geography. Although it is one range there are different names depending upon which side of the 49th Parallel the mountain range lies. For simplicity sake on this SummitPost page the name “Whitefish Range” includes all of the ranges and sub-ranges as described below unless specifically designated otherwise.
In Montana, the Whitefish Range, as it is called, extends north along a line that extends from near the confluence of the main stem of the Flathead River near Columbia Falls west to Whitefish. To the west the range is bordered by U.S. Highway 93 and the Stillwater River as it travels from Whitefish to the Canadian border near Eureka. The eastern boundary is Glacier National Park and the North Fork of the Flathead River.
Mountain Ranges know no borders and in Canada these same mountains have been labeled as sub-ranges of the Crowsnest Range. These mountains are referred to as the Flathead Range, a sub-range of the Crowsnest, and are made up of two sub-sub-ranges. The MacDonald Range, whose drainage feeds the Flathead River in Canada, which becomes the North Fork of the Flathead River after it crosses the U.S. - Canadian Border, and the Galton Range, whose uppermost drainages empty the Ten Lakes area near Eureka, Montana and empties into the Elk River which is part of the Kootenai River system. The Galton Range lies northeast of Roosville, British Columbia to the west and has a western and northern border marked by the incredible Elk River. All water drained in the entire range eventually dumps into the Pacific Ocean as part of the Columbia River.
Naming the MacDonald Range:The MacDonald Range lies west of the Flathead River and east of Wigwam River, just north of US border. The range was named on John Palliser’s 1863 map and may have been named after Sir John A. Macdonald, who later became Canada’s first prime minister.
Naming the Galton Range:The Galton Range forms the eastern edge of the Kootenay River Valley from the Elk River south to the U.S. border. The Wigwam River lies to the east of the Galton Range.
The Whitefish Range is formed from cake-like layers of siltstone, mudstone and limestone that are thousands of feet in depth.
Geologists believe that the bedrock of the range actually originated some 40 to 50 miles (64 to 80 km) west of its present location. The extreme pressure created by the perpetual shifting of the earth’s crust forced the rock of the Whitefish Range to shift upward toward the sky as well as to slide eastward to its present location. Eventually, the crust’s compression eased and the mountain blocks settled, creating the valleys of the North Fork of the Flathead, the Stillwater River, the Wigwam River as well as the Elk River, all of which are part of the Rocky Mountain Trench system.
Small valley glaciers ground and slipped east and west and smoothed the jagged features of the range, leaving its valley floors strewn with unsorted rocks, boulders, gravel, sand and other debris.
The area averages 16.5 inches (31.75 cm) of rain annually and in the winters there is an average of 65 inches (1.65 m) of snow in the valleys and over 12 feet (3.6 m) of snow on the peaks.
The Whitefish Range is home to Western red cedar, western hemlock, and grand fir that prefer wetter climates as well as Engelmann spruce, Douglas fir and white pine that tend to live in moderate elevations. Sub alpine fir and shrub-like bushes are found at tree line. Western larch, Ponderosa and lodge pole pine can frequently be found on south facing slopes and white bark pine is found in places where there is abundant moisture and in the fall and spring.
Forest fires have long shaped the Whitefish Range and the range has had extensive fires in 1910, 1929, 1988 and 2001. Wildfire shapes the various types of shrubs and other smaller plants that grow in the Whitefish Range. Morrell mushrooms flourish after wildfires as do huckleberries. They attract both humans as well as bears which has created concerns for safety.
A rare plant, Water Howellia, Howellia aquatilis, can also be found in this range.
The Whitefish Range provides habitat for approximately 250 species of wildlife and 22 species of fish.
The following large wildlife species are found in the Whitefish Range: grizzly, black bear, gray wolf, mountain lion, lynx, bob cat, wolverine, fisher, marten, whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, rocky mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose, beaver, otter, mink, bald eagle, golden eagle, owls, bull trout, cutthroat trout, toads, frogs, salamanders, and many lesser species make their living in these hills and waterways.
Fish species of special concern are the Bull Trout and the Westslope Cutthroat Trout. In recent years Lake Trout have been moving up the Flathead River system and displacing these incredible native fish.
Mammal species of special concern include the grizzly as well as the Canadian lynx.
Early human habitation of this area was most likely comprised of the Kootenai or Kootenay (in Canada).
To their own people they are called The Ktunaxa. They learned the mountain trails, crossed the passes, hunted the animals and gathered its rich harvest of fruits.
They also named a few of the mountains and streams such as Akinkoka Mountain (place of red willows), Nasukoin Mountain (chief), Tuchuck Mountain (thumb) and perhaps the most fun one to say Yakinikak Creek (moose trail).
Other tribes used this area to a lesser extent and would pass through the corridor on their way to hunt on the Great Plains. Some of the other tribes that would use portions of this area were the Flathead, Salish and Stony Indians.
White man’s first incursions into this area were from The Hudson Bay Company as it traded with the Ktunaxa in the early 1800s. David Thompson was perhaps the first white man to extensively explore this area while he was trapping. A fort was established near present day Eureka, Montana as well as a post in the Red Meadow Creek drainage on the North Fork drainage side.
By the late 1890’s settlers began to establish homesteads along the rivers edge and the U.S. government established post offices at Bowman Lake, Trail Creek, Kintla Lake, and Polebridge.
The western side of the range saw more development due to the main line of the Great Northern Railway. These towns were Whitefish, Olney, Fortine, Eureka, The Tobacco Plains near Roosville and Grassmere.
In the recent years there have been serious concerns raised about possible threats to the Whitefish Range and its river basins.
All of those serious threats due to mining, methane gas exploration and oil development were put to rest on February 9, 2010 when British Columbia announced a ban on all of these activities in the Canadian portion of the Flathead Basin. See the Daily Interlake Article.
The energy giant, BP (British Petroleum), had proposed developing the Cline Mine. The Cline Mine is a Coal Bed Methane project was to last for an estimated 20 years and potentially could have destroyed an entire mountain and poisoned the watershed of the Flathead Basin, both in Canada as well as Montana. Negotiations were in place for a number of years that would have presented a more sensible alternative that accounted for both the need to protect the environment as well as promoting intelligent use of our natural resources.
There are also concerns related to existing oil and gas leases on the eastern side of the range. Perhaps it will be as they found out in the early 1900’s that there is just too little oil and gas to make it profitable.
It is crucial that this incredible area animals and plants as well as way of life be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
The Buffalo Cow Trail – Bristish Columbia and Montana-Proposed:
Winton Weydemeyer Wilderness-Montana-Proposed:
Flathead National Park- British Columbia-Proposed:
Ten Lakes Scenic Area:
The Montana Lookout System:
|Name||Elevation Feet||Established In:||Current Status:|
|Akinkoka||7,014||1930's||Abandoned Camp, 1930s|
|Benchmark Mountain||7,099||1934||Destroyed, 1957|
|Big Creek||6,430||1933||Destroyed, 1957|
|Canyon||6,050||1940s||Abandoned Tower, 1940s|
|Coal Ridge||7,105||1928||Existing structure??|
|Cyclone Peak||6,031||1935||Manned Lookout|
|Demers Ridge||6,235||1935||Destroyed, 1957|
|Hay Creek Divide||????||1930s||Abandoned Camp, 1930s|
|Hornet||6,744||1922||Existing Rental Lookout|
|Link Mountain||7,230||1939||Abandoned Camp, 1952|
|Moose Point||7,531||1931||Abandoned, 1957|
|Mount Hefty||7,585||1930||Abandoned Cabin|
|Mount Locke||7,205||1929||Abandoned Tower|
|Nasukoin Mountain||8,086||1929||Abandoned Tower, 1956|
|Red Meadow||5,650||1923||Abandoned Tower, 1930s|
|Smoky Ridge||6,650||1933||Destroyed, 1977|
|Standard Peak||7,196||1929||Gone before 1956|
|Stryker Ridge||6,906||1960||Abandoned Structure, 1969|
|Tuchuck Mountain||7,751||1931||Destroted, 1957|
|Werner Peak||6,960||1911||Existing Manned Structure|
|Whitefish Mountain||4,370||1938||Destroyed, 1974|
Forest Service Lookout System
Before the advent of reliable plane observation and satellite imagery the U. S. Forest Service had to rely on their eyes in the mountains to quickly spot and report forest fires. In Montana’s potion of the Whitefish Range there were 30 lookouts. These lookouts were manned during the fire season and a system was devised to accurately identify the exact location of the fire. After properly identifying the location the fire watchers would call their dispatch that would then send out the necessary fire fighting crew.
The chart on the left describes the name of the U. S. Forest Service Lookout or Fire Camp as well as the elevation, date established and current status. Similar lookout systems exist in Canada as well.
Source: Rex’s Forest Fire Lookout Page
Peaks in the Whitefish Range have some interesting names. Krinklehorn Peak is perhaps the most interesting name and can be reached via an 11.5 hiking mile trail. Mount Hefty, which must be a heavy mountain, has twin summits one in Canada and one in the United States.
In the Whitefish Range most of the higher peaks are found near or north of the U. S. - Canadian Border.
The tallest peak in the range is Mount Doupe which stands at 8,740 feet (2,664 m) in elevation. Mount Doupe can be accessed from the west along the Lodgepole Cabin Forest Service Road along Wigwam and Bighorn Creek or from east along the Lodgepole Forest Service Road. There are no trails or even any roads that make a close approach to the peak. Perhaps someone reading this page has been there or has a recommended approach route to summit the tallest peak in the range.
“Mount Doupe is named for Jacob Lonsdale Doupe, DLS, PLS, who surveyed in this area in 1899; he obtained his commission as a Provincial Land Surveyor in 1898 and practiced until 1932; his name is associated with 1915 surveys in the Railway Belt in professional land surveyors' index; Doupe was in his 90's when he died at Victoria in 1952.”
Mount Swope was named to remember Canadian Army Gunner John N. Swope from Trail, BC. He was serving with 5 Canadian A.A. Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, when he was killed in action on 4 September 1944 at the age of 32. He was buried at Gradara War Cemetery in Italy. His parents William Albert and Georgina Swope lived in Cranbrook, BC.
Source for Mount Doupe and Mount Swope Information: BCGNIS Query.
The tallest peak in the U.S. portion of The Whitefish Range is Nasukoin Mountain which stands at an elevation of 8,086 feet (2,465 m) and can be accessed via a trail near Red Meadow Campground. It can also be accessed via a trailhead that is located above Upper Whitefish Lake on the western side of the divide.
As of initial publication the only peak featured in SummitPost was Teakettle Mountain, which is located in the southern portion of the range near Columbia Falls, MT. For other peaks featured on SummitPost from the Whitefish Range see Mountains and Rocks of the Whitefish Range.
Located below are a list of the 25 tallest peaks in The Whitefish Range.
Rank Name Elevation Feet Elevation Meters Location 1 Mount Doupe 8,740 2,664 British Columbia 2 Mount Swope 8,250 2,514 British Columbia 3 Overfold Mountain 8,150 2,484 British Columbia 4 Nasukoin Mountain 8,086 2,465 Montana 5 Sheep Mountain 8,050 2,454 British Columbia 6 Mount Broadwood 7,950 2,423 British Columbia 7 Piaysoo Ridge 7,850 2,393 British Columbia 8 Mount Mahaney 7,846 2,391 British Columbia 9 Poorman Mountain 7,832 2,387 Montana 10 Green Mountain 7,822 2,384 Montana 11 Mount Thompson Seton 7,820 2,384 Montana 12 Lake Mountain 7,814 2,382 Montana 13 Tuchuck Mountain 7,751 2,363 Montana 14 Red Benchmark 7,601 2,317 Montana 15 Mount Hefty 7,578 2,312 Montana 16 Windfall Mountain 7,550 2,301 British Columbia 17 Moose Peak 7,531 2,295 Montana 18 Krag Peak 7,510 2,289 Montana 19 Ksanka Peak 7,488 2,282 Montana 20 Mount Hefty 7,450 2,271 British Columbia 21 Stahl Peak 7,435 2,266 Montana 22 Whitefish Mountain 7,417 2,261 Montana 23 Independence Peak 7,416 2,260 Montana 24 Krinklehorn Peak 7,411 2,259 Montana 25 Deep Mountain 7,406 2,257 Montana
British Columbia, Canada and Montana in the United States are a long way from most places. That’s why many of us live here.The very nice locals say, "Have a nice VISIT in Montana". While you are visiting check out other things to do at Things To Do In Montana's Flathead Valley.
It is possible to get here by:By Air: Glacier International Airport serves as the air hub for northwestern Montana. Horizon, Delta Connection and Northwest Airlines service this area.
International Travel Information:With increasing concerns related to international threats of terrorism and such the border between Canada and the United States is more restricted. The following guidelines were found on-line from the respective countries regarding crossing the International Border between the Commonwealth of Canada and the United States of America.
Entering Canada from the United States:Required Documents
Entering the United States from Canada:Please note that all non U.S. Citizens, Canadian tourists, and certain Mexican travelers, will be required to have a current I94 form [Arrival-Departure Record] to enter the United States from Canada.
The Whitefish Range is accessible throughout the year. With groomed snowmobile trails as well as forest access roads it would be possible to ski, snowshoe or snowmobile to many of the peaks in the Whitefish Range. Keep in mind that access to medical care would be a long drawn out procedure no matter what time of year but is even more protracted when the peaks are in the grips “old man winter”. Backcountry users should also be familiar with avalanche safety when traveling during the winter. There are links to Avalanche Centers in the last section of this page.
Generally the range begins to become snow free in mid-May and by early July most peaks would be accessible. Access to the range becomes day to day in late September due to cold nights that may result in snow and warm fall days resulting in generally wet conditions. By late October do not count on traveling to higher elevations in the range unless prepared for snow travel.
4th of July, Polebridge, Montana Style:Perhaps there is a no more original way to celebrate the birthday of the United States than celebrating it in Polebridge, Montana. If you are near Glacier National Park and the Whitefish Range make plans to attend.
The Big Mountain (a.k.a Whitefish Mountain Resort):Brief interlude for a tirade: Okay the big money people have changed the name of this ski resort to Whitefish Mountain Resort but most locals still call it Big Mountain or even “The Mountain”. This makes more sense when you consider that there actually is a mountain named Whitefish Mountain that is located about 18 miles (30 km) northwest of Big Mountain. What was wrong with Big Mountain Resort?
Ten Lakes Scenic Area:The Ten Lakes is accessed via by turning off of U.S. Highway 93 and following Forest Service Roads to the trail heads. From these trail heads trails criss-cross the Ten Lakes Scenic Area allowing easy access to this spectacular region of the Whitefish Range.
Glacier National Park Access:Access to Glacier National Park can be found all along the North Fork of the Flathead River since the park’s western boundary is the river.
Waterton National Park Access:In Canada, the Whitefish Range lies to the west of Waterton National Park. It might be possible access to the east across the Flathead River from trailheads along Sage, Akamina and Kishinea Creeks but there are no trails connecting directly into the park on the recreation maps that were used for reference on this page. Perhaps someone else has better information regarding access to Waterton from the Flathead Valley.
Fishing in the Whitefish Range:
Rafting on the Flathead River:
Root Beer Classic Sled Dog Race- Polebridge, Montana:
Heli-skiing in the Whitefish Range- Montana – Proposed:In 2008 a local business proposed offering Heli-Skiing in the Stillwater State Forest which is part of the Whitefish Range. Large amounts of opposition as well as a need to further study the impact of this proposal lead to the request being denied at this time.
Other Uses:There are forest service access roads and trails throughout the range. In the winter many of theses roads become snowmobile trails which open access for all types of backcountry users.
Name of Rental Description Daily Rental Cost Location Wurtz Cabin The Wurtz family beginning in 1913 homesteaded the historic Wurtz Cabin; they worked the land, hunted, and raised livestock until they sold the property in 1964. The Forest Service acquired the land in 1990 and used it as a workcenter into the late 1990’s. In 2003 the planning and restoration work began to add it to the cabin rental program. Please pack out what you brought including your garbage. Polebridge Merchentile is located south of Wurtz and has limited supplies. $65/night 46 miles north of Columbia Falls in the North Fork Hornet Lookout The Hornet Lookout was built in 1922 as part of the fire lookout program. At one time it was one of 146 structures on the Flathead National Forest that made up the integral chain of forest fire detection. Today it is one of less than 15 remaining lookouts and is the only D-1 standard fire lookout still standing. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. $20/night 54 miles north of Columbia Falls in the North Fork Ben Rover Cabin The Rover Cabin was purchased by the Forest Service in 1992 from Ronald and D’Ann Wilhelm in accordance with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. $50/night 35 miles north of Columbia Falls in the North Fork Ninko Cabin Ninko sits in the Whitefish Range of the Rocky Mountains. The cabin was constructed between 1949 and 1951 by Forest Service Crews as an intermediate ranger station for employees working on the Spruce Park Beetle Campaign. The larger size of this cabin reflects the desire of the ranger to have a larger work space, anticipating the greater amount of time he would have to spend at the location. $30/night 56 miles from Columbia Falls Ford Work Center The area that the Ford cabin now occupies was originally used as a 171-acre, half-way camp for Forest Service officers, government pack trains and fire crews up and down the North Fork of the Flathead River. In 1908 it was reserved as an Administrative Site and the name was changed from Whale Creek Ranger Station to Ford Ranger Station. The cabin visible today was built in 1922 by Ranger Ralph Thayer, in connection with the final clearing of the North Fork Trail which occurred in 1924. $35/night 45 miles up the North Fork Road Mount Wam Lookout This 196-square-foot cabin sits atop Mt. Wam on a rocky point in the middle of the Ten Lakes Proposed Wilderness Area. The site offers views of the Canadian Rockies to the north, Glacier Park to the east, the Whitefish Mountain Range to the south, and the rugged rock cliffs of the Galton Range to the west. $20/night 20 miles from Fortine, Montana
There are at least 9 USFS campgrounds in the range. Those are Big Creek, Red Meadow Lake, Tuchuck, Moose Lake, North Dickey Lake, South Dickey Lake, Grave Creek, Big Therriault Lake and Little Therriault Lake. Information on these campsites can be found by contacting the Glacier View Ranger District at (406) 387-3800 or by going on-line government campground reservation site for Whitefish Range Campgrounds.
Across the border in British Columbia there are numerous camping sites available. Perhaps the most interesting is the campground at Frozen Lake. Frozen Lake is located near the international border in Canada’s Flathead Valley. This is a small semi-open campsite. Akamina-Kishinena Provincial Park also offers tenting pads and pit toilets at Akamina Creek. See BC Camp sites for a complete listing of available camping opportunities.
Other motels and restaurants are available in the large towns that circle the Whitefish Range.
If there is interest in really getting back to nature consider booking a stay at one of the Forest Service Rental Cabins or Lookouts. The above table shows rentals that are available in the Kootenai and Flathead National Forests. To reserve these cabins go to Cabin and Lookout reservations.
Equipment and Maps:
In addition to the basic gear used to summit peaks bring bear deterrent spray and topo maps for the area. Water may or may not be available as well.
If additional equipment is needed the Glacier Outdoor Center in West Glacier, Montana has outdoor rentals for both winter and summer equipment.
Contact any U. S. National Forest Service office for maps. The recommended maps for the Montana portion are the Kootenai and East Half Kaniksu National Forests and Flathead National Forest.
In British Columbia maps should be available at most sporting goods stores as well as Ministry of Forests offices.
A useful guide for British Columbia is the Backroad Mapbook, Volume IV, The Kootenays. It is called Southeastern B. C.’s Most Complete Outdoor Recreation Guide. This 2008 book has an assortment of information such as fishing, camping, winter recreation, as well as paddling routes. It is currently in the 3rd Edition and includes basic maps of the Kootenay area. The cost for the 3rd Edition is $ 24.95 Canadian.
Guidebooks and Links:
For information in Montana visit:
Climbers Guide to Montana
Flathead National Forest
Kootenai National Forest
Glacier Avalanche Center
For information in British Columbia visit:
Rocky Mountain Forest District
Canadian Avalanche Information
If there is any other omitted information to submit or additional information to add please contact FlatheadNative via PM through SummitPost.