Created by Ice Age glaciers, Flathead Lake is the largest body of fresh water in the contiguous western United States... and one of the cleanest and clearest. The lake ranges to 300 feet in depth, almost thirty miles long and fifteen miles across at its widest point, covering nearly 200 square miles.
Fed primarily by the Flathead River and Swan River, Flathead Lake lies downstream of Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. Two scenic highways parallel the lake: U.S. Highway 93 on the west side and the more winding and narrow Montana Route 35 on the east side. Views are fabulous either way.
The lake has a complex fisheries, which is headlined by the native westslope cutthroat and bull trout. Unfortunately, the introduction of non-native species including the mysis shrimp and lake trout have contributed to the decline of the native trout. To help the natives, state and tribal biologists encourage fishermen to target the large, predatory lake trout. Not a bad assignment!
Public Access, Camping and Picnic Places
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks maintains 12 fishing access sites and state parks. They include:
Big Arm (State Park) Flathead Lake Brochure Camping, a long beach, nature trail, and a yurt rental are all here. This park is a popular jump-off point to Wild Horse Island, using the ramp to launch your own boat. Flathead Lake | Open Jan 1—Dec 31
Bigfork (Fishing Access Site) Seasonal boat ramp closures during winter. Flathead Lake | Open Jan 1—Dec 31
Ducharme (Fishing Access Site) Undeveloped site. Flathead Lake | Open May 15—Nov 30 | Difficult Accessibility
Elmo (Fishing Access Site) Flathead Lake | Open Jan 1—Dec 31 | Difficult Accessibility
Finley Point (State Park) This park is located in a secluded, mature pine forest near the south end of Flathead Lake. Enjoy one of the 16 campsites here with water and electrical hook ups, plus a boat pumpout station. Open May 1—Sep 30 | Easy Accessibility
Somers (Fishing Access Site) Open Jan 1—Dec 31 | Easy Accessibility
Walstad (Fishing Access Site) Open Jan 1—Dec 31 | Easy Accessibility
Wayfarers (State Park) You’ll find this site right outside Bigfork located on the northeast shore of Flathead Lake. Open Jan 1—Dec 31 | Easy Accessibility
West Shore (State Park) Glacially carved rock outcrops rise from Flathead Lake to overlooks with spectacular views of the lakeshore and the Swan and Mission Mountains. Considered the most private park on Flathead Lake, this site is distinguished by a mature fir, pine, and larch forest. The beach is rocky but you can still swim, boat, and camp here. Open Jan 1—Dec 31 | Difficult Accessibility
Wild Horse Island (State Park) Boat access to this day-use-only, primitive park is regulated to protect the 2,000-acre island. Open Jan 1—Dec 31 | Most Difficult Accessibility
Woods Bay (Fishing Access Site) Boat ramp not usable below lake level 2885'. Open Jan 1—Dec 31 | Easy Accessibility
Yellow Bay (State Park) Yellow Bay is in the heart of the famous Montana sweet cherry orchards, blossoms color the hillsides during the spring. The park includes Yellow Bay Creek, four walk-in tent camping spots and a wide, sandy beach for swimming, sunbathing, scuba diving, boating, fishing, and bird watching.