The Middle Fork of the Flathead River originates in the heart of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area south of Glacier National Park. The river flows steeply downward to the northwest for approximately 90 miles, to join the North Fork of the Flathead River below West Glacier. From the headwaters to its confluence with Bear Creek near Essex, the Middle Fork has been classified as a Wild River under the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. This upper portion of the river flows through a timbered valley to Schafer Meadows, a popular spot to be flown into to begin a 46-mile backcountry floating experience through the river's steep, rocky canyon. The river runs another 44 miles from Bear Creek to the North Fork, mainly through steep canyon topology, except for the Nyack Flats area where the floodplain broadens. This portion of the river is classified as Recreational and is extremely popular for recreational and commercial whitewater rafting in the spring and early summer.