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North Shore of Flathead Lake | Montana

Wildlife Viewing Area
North Shore of Flathead Lake – Karen Nichols

Driving Directions

The North Shore is off Highway 82 between Highway 93 and Highway 35. A narrow dirt track leads south between farms to the Wildfowl Production Area.

Overview of this Wildlife Watching Landscape

The Flathead River disperses through cottonwood stands and reedy sloughs, where waterfowl and raptors thrive. The federal Waterfowl Production Area is closed to humans during spring nesting but is bliss for birders the rest of the year.

The North Shore of Flathead Lake between Somers and the Flathead River is a spectacular mosaic of high quality and productive bird habitats. Flathead lake's 7 miles of remote north shoreline with extensive shallows and wetlands, its associated cotton wood stands, grasslands and highly productive agricultural lands make this an aquatic bird paradise. Adding 27 miles of meandering river, sloughs and associated spring creek habitats creates one of the most productive riverine and lake/wetland ecosystems in the West.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service maintains a Northwest Montana Wildfowl Production Area along the shoreline which is surrounded by 1,600 acres of rich, productive farmland. Native Cutthroat trout and bull trout cruise the north shore to the mouth of Flathead River, where they begin their journey upstream to spawn in the river's tributaries.

Flathead Lake is one of the largest natural lakes in the world. Of those large lakes, Flathead is one of the cleanest. Studies at the Biological Station show that water quality in Flathead Lake is among the best in the world.

In past times the Salish Tribe camped on the shore of Flathead Lake to fish, hunt, and gather. The Tribe's name in their language translates as " the People of the Wide Water". Blackfeet also came to the north shore to fish and hunt, travelling over Marias Pass and down the Middle Fork to the Lake. The location of their traditional encampment is located just north of Highway 82.

Type of Wildlife Often Seen

Over 230 species of birds frequent the north shore area. Thousands of native Cutthroat trout come to the north shore to begin their trip up the river from late December through March, and as many as 1,500 threatened native bull trout come to the north shore on their way upriver beginning in March through June. The trout return to the lake after spawning.


Best Seasons and Months for Viewing

The Wildfowl Production Area is closed from March 1 through July 15, during the breeding, nesting and brood-rearing period.

Nearby Places