Frequently Asked Questions
Why choose Glacier Outdoor Center for a trip?
Several reasons. Our 39 years of experience on Montana’s Flathead Rivers, professional river guides well-trained in safety and first aid, high quality self-bailing rafts and inflatable kayaks, and multiple trip options make us one of the leading whitewater rafting outfitters in Montana. We offer a variety of trips on the Flathead Rivers, including the rush of Class II to III rapids on our half and full-day adventures, a scenic float trip through a quiet secluded canyon, and a variety of multi-day options. We have also been the #1 Trip Advisor Attraction in West Glacier for the past three years.
We provide U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejackets for your safety and protection. Clean, comfortable wetsuits, booties and splash tops are available for your added comfort.
Who can go on a rafting trip? Is there an age limit?
Just about anyone can go whitewater rafting. No experience is necessary, although most of our trips require some paddling and you will probably get wet! Glacier Outdoor Center welcomes rafters young and old, with minimum age restrictions dependent on weather and water conditions.
In general during summer the age minimums for children are 8-10 in June, 6-7 in July and 4-5 in August on our whitewater trips. We will take kids as young as 1.5 on our scenic floats. Spring trips require an older minimum age as the level of difficulty increases, while late season water conditions may allow younger children. During high water, our 4-day wilderness trip requires a minimum age of 16. With advance notice, we can accommodate most special needs.
What’s the best time of year to go rafting?
We offer whitewater rafting adventures 7 days a week from early May through mid-September, depending on weather and water conditions. The Flathead Rivers are free flowing, dependent on snow pack melt for their water flow. As a result, the water level and flow peak in early June with Class II-III whitewater. The rivers gradually recede and slow to solid Class II whitewater as the summer progresses. The high water adventure of early season rafting usually requires wetsuits, while warmer summer air and water temperatures let us raft in T-shirts and shorts.
How cold is the river and what if it rains?
Since the Flathead Rivers are dependent on snow melt, the water temperature early in the season can be cold (45°), requiring the use of wetsuits by all rafters. As the summer progresses, the river warms up considerably and many of our rafters enjoy a refreshing swim in some of the calmer stretches of the river. From early May to mid-September, we offer rafting trips rain or shine! Since you’ll get wet anyway, rafting can be a great way to spend a rainy or cloudy day! Splash jackets and wet suits are provided when necessary.
How are rapids classified?
Whitewater is rated on a difficulty scale between I and VI. The Middle Fork of the Flathead River is classified Class II-IV and is considered exciting family whitewater.
- Class I Very Easy: Small, regular waves, few obstacles, little maneuvering required
- Class II Easy: Easy rapids, eddies and bends, some maneuvering required
- Class III Medium: Numerous waves, narrow passages, maneuvering required, may require scouting
- Class IV Difficult: Difficult rapids, abrupt bends, narrow passages, scouting often necessary, precise maneuvering required
- Class V Very Difficult: Long rapids with wild turbulence and extremely congested routs, complex maneuvering, scouting is difficult
- Class VI Limits of Navigation: Nearly impossible and very dangerous, a definite hazard to life.
How much of the trip is whitewater?
The majority of the whitewater on the Middle Fork of the Flathead is within 5 miles of West Glacier. You will encounter 9 named rapids, all of which are included with our daily whitewater adventures.
How long is the trip?
Our half-day whitewater trip is 8 river miles. Depending on river flow, this trip will take between 2.5 and 3.5 hours, including a short bus shuttle to the river and instruction and safety information.
Our full-day whitewater trip is 15 river miles. Total time including bus shuttle to the river, instruction and safety information, and lunch along the river is 5 to 6 hours per trip.
When and how do I make a reservation and what is your cancellation policy?
Our staff of rafting specialists is available to assist you with questions and advice, as well as take your reservation over the phone during business hours. For real-time availability, please feel free to call our office staff at 1-800-235-6781 or e-mail us at: email@example.com
However, if you prefer to book online, use our On-Line Reservations System which will take you through an easy step by step process to book your trip. Payments can be made using all major credit cards (Visa, Master Card, Discover and American Express) through our secure server.
If you need to cancel your reservation, please notify us immediately. Daily rafting and fly fishing adventures require 24 hours cancellation notice for a full refund; cancellations within 24 hours are non-refundable. For multi-day trips and cabin reservations, cancellations made more than 45 days prior to trip departure or cabin rental will receive a refund less 25% of the total; cancellations within 45 days are non-refundable however 75% of the total may be applied to a trip or cabin stay within the following year.
Where is the departure point for trips?
Our daily adventure trips depart from our office in the village of West Glacier, located at #6 Going-to-the-Sun Road between the Alberta Visitors Center and the Gas Station. Glacier Outdoor Center provides transportation to the put-in. Your trip will end at the West Glacier bridge, a short walk from our office.
Our multi-day, fishing and self-guided adventures depart from Glacier Outdoor Center, located at 12400 Hwy 2 East, West Glacier, under the giant log arch on the south side of US Highway 2, ½ mile west of West Glacier. Glacier Outdoor Center provides transportation to and from the river.
Does each raft have a guide and how many people fit in a raft?
Every raft (with the exception of inflatable kayaks and self-guided trips) has a professional river guide. Most of our guides have worked with us for many seasons. We use only self-bailing rafts, 13-16 feet in length, designed for 6-10 paddlers plus a guide. In addition, there is room for a couple of non-paddlers in each raft.
How much do I participate?
Glacier Raft Company uses paddle rafts, with active participation by rafters through the rapids and flatter stretches of the river. Paddling is not continuous. Each raft has room for up to 4 non-paddlers for those who cannot or prefer not to paddle. Although paddling is preferred, with advance notice oar rafts may be available. Multi-day trips utilize a combination of paddle rafts and oar rafts (which haul gear and some people).
What should I wear and what can I bring?
Dress according to weather and water conditions. Complimentary splash tops are available on all daily trips. On a warm, sunny day, wear a swimming suit or shorts, a T-shirt and hat, along with shoes that will stay securely on your feet.
During early season or on cooler days, wetsuits, wool or fleece shirts and hats, and neoprene booties along with splash tops will make your rafting adventure more enjoyable. Wetsuits are provided at no extra charge when required due to temperature or water levels. Wetsuits and booties are available for rent from Glacier Outdoor Center.
As a general rule, don’t take anything with you on the raft that can’t get wet. If you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses, be sure to bring along a retainer to hold them on (disposable cameras and eyeglass retainers are available for purchase in our store). Bottled water is good on hot days. Bring along a towel and dry clothing to change into after the trip and lock it all in your vehicle and leave your car keys in the office for safekeeping.
Suggested packing lists are provided for our multi-day adventures.
Can I take my camera?
If you want to bring a camera, we recommend only a disposable, waterproof camera (available for purchase in our office). Watch for our photographer as you come around the bend at Bonecrusher! You can check out your photos after your trip and take home lasting memories of your adventure with us.
Can I rent equipment?
We offer a complete line of rental clothing and equipment including rafts, inflatable kayaks, wetsuits and booties, life jackets, fishing equipment (including rods, reels, waders, and float tubes), plus sleeping bags, pads and other camping equipment. Whatever you need for a fun river adventure or for hiking in Glacier National Park, you’ll find it at Glacier Outdoor Center.
May I request a specific guide?
We will make every effort to meet special requests. Let us know in advance if you would like a particular guide and we will do our best to match the guide’s schedule with yours.
Should I tip my guide?
That’s a really great question and one we get asked a lot. We don’t have a formal tipping policy for our guides but we can say this. Our rafting guides are the best in the business. They are highly trained professionals who are passionate about what they do. This is not just a job for them; it’s a way of life. Our guides do much more than guide you down the river; they are storytellers, history buffs, animal and plant identifiers, comedians and many even cook you meals. If you feel your guide has done a great job and made your experience a memorable one, then you can certainly show your appreciation by giving a tip. The amount is totally up to you. Many people believe that anyone in the service industry (like restaurant servers, hotel employees, hair dressers, etc. ) should get between 10-20% of the total cost of the service. That is not to say that’s what we suggest, but that’s what most people tip when they do tip.
Is Glacier Outdoor Center an environmentally conscious company?
Glacier Outdoor Center has a heritage of providing safe and responsible tours in and around Glacier National Park and the Great Bear and Bob Marshall Wilderness areas. Our livelihood is based on this great land, therefore we try to be as earth-sensitive as possible in our business operations. Our goal is to leave this area just as we found it, for future generations to enjoy.