Paddling Bowman Lake Glacier National Park

Nessie at Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park
Nessie at Bowman Lake, Glacier National Park

Bowman Lake is in the northwest section of Glacier National Park, and is about as far away from things as you can get without hiking into the back country. The only place more out of the way is Kintla Lake also in the northwest section of the park. All of the guidebooks say that you really really want to go to Kintla lake before you undertake the trip. And there isn't much need to go.

View from initial section of road
Outside North Fork Road

The better (or least bad) road to Bowman Lake is the Outside North Fork Road that follows the Flathead River outside the park. The road is paved for a short section after you leave the park. The pavement soon ends and is followed by about 4 miles of relatively good unpaved road. Then there are about 4 miles of paved road, followed by another 4 miles of unpaved road that gets you to Polebridge--the only bit of civilization in this part of the world.

Sign showing 22 miles to Canada

We have additional information about Pole Bridge on our Polebridge page.

On to Bowman Lake

Road from Polebridge to Glacier Park
Road from Polebridge to Park before you get to the park.

Road to Bowan Lake inside the park
Road to Bowman Lake after entering Glacier National Park.

After you leave Polebridge, you have another mile of unpaved road until you reach the northwest entrance to Glacier National Park. The park service has a sign posted saying that roads in this (the northwest) section of the park the roads are maintained in a primitive state. This means that every so often a bear is hired to dig a new pothole in the road. The road is rough, dusty, rough, and narrow. After a few miles of this rough road, you reach the campground, picnic area, and boat launch.

View from boat launch area Bowman Lake Montana

The trip into the lake proved to be well worth it. The mountains jump right out Paddling Bowman Lake view from the water of the lake. The water is clear. It's so clear, in fact, that my wife was warning me about paddling over rocks that were several feet below us.

View of Bowman Lake from Nessie

Mountains seen from Nessie

We saw a bald eagle and a otter while we were paddling. The otter kept playing around just far enough away to keep us from getting a good picture of him. The eagle was great. What a great way to spend a day.

As the day wore in, the wind started to pick up so we turned around and returned to the launch area. Sudden afternoon winds can cause significant problems on the mountains lakes in Glacier. It's not a good idea to be on the water when the wind starts to blow.

On the drive out we enjoyed to fall colors and stopped several times to admire the view.

Fall Colors Looking towards