National Geographic : 1977 Jul
color of pearl was in the south window. I lay for a moment more beneath the quilt, lis tening to the jays at the feed er, then rose and shivered into my wool robe. Outside, the mercury huddled at ten degrees below zero F. A northwest Montana morning at my home along the North Fork of the Flathead River, three days after Thanksgiving. Later I went to the river to draw wa ter and found the ice was four inches thick on the channel that sweeps around the island by the house-perfect for my fiancee, Karen, and me to take a quick skate before lunch. We were gliding along, when Karen suddenly called, "Look!" pointing to the brush bank where a moose was trotting through shoulder-high willows. We curved to a stop to watch. Exhilarated, we decided to take off our skates and walk across the island to where the main current of the North Fork flows. Stepping out onto a ribbon of sand, we could see in all directions: mountains, forest, sparkling water, a huge country of green and white. To the east of the river lies Glacier National Park, established in 1910, and at its core towers the Livingston Range, which carries the Continental Divide north at elevations of more than nine thousand feet. From the river we could see where the top of the continent marches past the border into Canada and where the remote headwaters of the North Fork begin. (For a detailed map of the Flathead see Wild and Scenic Rivers of the United States, a supple ment to this issue.) The North Fork reaches some 70 miles south before joining the Middle, and then the South Fork of the Flat head, which have coursed a hundred miles each to their confluences. All three forks move between tall mountains, sometimes pouring through limestone chasms so deep and narrow the sun seems never to touch the water. In places like the Chinese Wall near the headwaters of the South Fork, a solid band of white limestone a thousand feet OUR WILD AND SCENIC RIVERS The Flathead By DOUGLAS H. CHADWICK Photographs by LOWELL GEORGIA High above Montana's Flathead Basin, a Rocky Mountain goat eyes his domain: one of the newest additions to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. The author (facing page) kayaks the river's South Fork.