Glacier Outdoor Center Blog


Our historic float on the North Fork of the Flathead River recently was amazing. Who knew you could have fun and learn at the same time?! (Just kidding, back-to-school kids.)  The “float back in time” attracted about 20 people. Thanks to The Museum at Central School, we learned about some of the history and mystique surrounding the wilds of the North Fork of the Flathead River.

It turns out James Talbot (founder of Columbia Falls) tried to lure James J. Hill of Great Northern Railway, to build the railroad through Columbia Falls. For years, getting coal to the Pacific Northern Railway was tedious. It was brought down river by barges and flatboats with “donkey engines,” loaded on freighter boats on Flathead Lake, then finally loaded onto railways. In fact, Mr. Talbot built the “Oakes” steam-powered paddle boat to travel up the North Fork and bring back coal. Unfortunately, it only made it as far as Coal Creek before it broke apart and went down in the spring of 1892.

(above: James Talbot) If you missed this trip don’t worry–we’re planning another historic float next summer that is sure to be full of fact, fables and fun!