Clark Fork River Watershed Facts (with Map & Photos)

The Clark Fork River is a river in the U.S. states of Montana and Idaho. It is one of the largest rivers in Montana and is a tributary of the Columbia River. The river flows through mountainous terrain, providing important habitat for various wildlife and offering recreational opportunities.

Clark Fork River
Clark Fork River

Key points about the Clark Fork River


The Clark Fork River originates in the Silver Bow and Flint Creek Mountain ranges in western Montana. It flows generally northwest, passing through the cities of Butte and Missoula, and then into northern Idaho, where it eventually joins the Columbia River.


Some of its major tributaries include the Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River, and Flathead River. These tributaries contribute to the overall flow and ecological diversity of the river.

Missoula Valley

The river flows through the Missoula Valley, a region known for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities. Missoula, one of Montana's major cities, is located along the Clark Fork River.

Hydroelectric Dams

There are several hydroelectric dams along the Clark Fork River, harnessing its water for power generation. These dams have both positive and negative impacts on the river ecosystem.

Environmental Concerns

The river has been the focus of environmental concerns due to historical mining activities that have led to the release of pollutants into the water. Efforts have been made to address and remediate these environmental issues.


The Clark Fork River is popular for recreational activities such as fishing, boating, and rafting. The river provides habitat for various fish species, including trout and whitefish, making it a destination for anglers.


The river and its surrounding areas support diverse wildlife, including various bird species and mammals. Conservation efforts are in place to protect the natural habitat and maintain the ecological balance of the region.

Columbia River Basin

As a tributary of the Columbia River, the Clark Fork River is part of the larger Columbia River Basin, which is a significant watershed in the western United States and Canada.

Overall, the Clark Fork River is valued for its ecological importance, scenic beauty, and recreational opportunities, but it also faces challenges related to environmental conservation and management.

Clark Fork River Map