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Bigfork Whitewater Festival on the Wild Mile | Bigfork, Montana

Festival Event

Come celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Bigfork Whitewater Festival! On a late weekend in May as the snow is coming off the peaks of the Swan Range, Bigfork plays host to kayaking races on the Class V “wild mile” of the Swan River.

Whitewater! –

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The festival falls on or right before Memorial Day weekend. The kayakers are in their suits and under the water as often as on top so weather does not make much difference to them…except at night when the majority of them are in tents in the area. As a spectator be prepared for any weather.

A city park by the electric plant becomes the “campground” for the kayakers.

Around the bend a bit and to the left of the electric plant is the race course finish and the rodeo spot. The water is wilder here than it shows in the photos. It is pretty wild just below the bridge before the river becomes the bay.

The bridge over the river as it exits the electric plant area and before it enters the bay was built in 1911 per the plaque. The bridge was recently upgraded but I noticed that when I stood on it to take photos, it was vibrating and rocking from the force of the water underneath. The one car at a time thing always makes me nervous - for some reason, not everyone gets that it really means one car on the bridge at a time…not just one lane…people in a hurry will follow me across without waiting for my car to clear.

For more information on Bigfork Whitewater Festival visit:

Event Setting

Bigfork is located on a bay of Flathead Lake where the Swan River feeds into the lake. There is a mile of river called the “Wild Mile” which flows from above Bigfork to the bay with enough force to generate electricity courtesy of the electric plant located just before the village and the bay. The “Wild Mile” typically has class IV and V rapids this time of year and is home to the Whitewater Festival, an international kayaking event.

Bigfork’s Whitewater Festival is unique in that it is one of the few whitewater competitions that is in a location easy to get to and to watch. An old forest service road which is now public access called the Bigfork Nature Trail, borders the wild mile. There are numerous vantage points to get to a spot to watch the kayakers on the race course. At the base of the electric plant there is a hole which makes for the “rodeo” spot where the kayakers do their tricks for points.


  • Universally Accessible
  • Family-Friendly