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Before it empties into mighty Flathead Lake, the final mile of the Swan River cascades over rocks and boulders, creating what is known as the “Wild Mile”. Spring snowmelt creates class III and IV rapids for kayakers who come to compete in May’s annual Whitewater festival. And now, with a weekly release of water every Wednesday, whitewater enthusiasts can enjoy the wild Mile throughout the summer.

And thanks to the Swan River Nature Trail, you don’t have to get soaking wet to enjoy the rushing water. By taking to the trail everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Swan River. The trail begins near Grand Drive in Bigfork and follows an old road that tracks the river for about two miles to the Kearney Rapids Bridge. This is an easy Bigfork nature trail enjoyed by hikers, bikers and horseback riders in the summer and on skis or snowshoes in the winter.

In May and June, members of the Flathead Native Plant society and the Audubon Society lead weekly nature hikes every Tuesday from 10 AM until noon. Naturalists tell us that the route travel through three different plant communities (meadowland, woodland and wetland), so there’s always plenty to see and photograph.

If you want to add a little history to your ramble, we recommend taking a few Paces to the Past. That’s the Bigfork Village Historical Walk. Pick up one of the historic brochures as you stroll through the galleries and shops of Bigfork Village. Each pace is designated with a small sign on the building that corresponds with a paragraph and photo in the brochure.

For those who prefer hikes rather than strolls and rambles, the Jewel Basin Hiking Area is the perfect choice. With more than 35 miles of hiking trails linking alpine lakes, there’s something for everyone. Many prefer a day hike. Others pack their fishing poles and tents in order to camp by one of the 25 lakes and enjoy a few hours of fishing. High lakes may still have ice and trails can be snowcovered until July. Stop by the Bigfork Chamber Visitor’s Center for maps and information before heading up the trail.

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