Clark Fork River
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The Clark Fork is a river in the U.S. states of Montana and Idaho, approximately 360 mi (579 km) long. The largest river by volume in Montana, it drains an extensive region of the Rocky Mountains in western Montana and northern Idaho in the watershed of the Columbia River, flowing northwest through a long mountain valley and emptying into Lake Pend Oreille in northern Idaho. The Pend Oreille River, which drains the lake to the Columbia, is sometimes included as part of the Clark Fork, giving it a total length of 479 mi (771 km), with a drainage area of 25,820 sq mi (66,870 km²). In its upper 20 mi (32 km) in Montana near Butte, it is known as Silver Bow Creek. Interstate 90 follows much of the upper course of the river from Butte to northwest of Missoula.
The Clark Fork is a Class I river for recreational purposes in Montana from Warm Springs Creek to the Idaho border.
The Clark Fork should not be confused with the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River, which is located in Montana and Wyoming.
It rises as Silver Bow Creek in southwestern Montana, less than 5 mi (8 km) from the continental divide near downtown Butte, from the confluence of Basin and Blacktail creeks. It flows northwest and north through a valley in the mountains, passing east of Anaconda, where it changes its name to the Clark Fork, then northwest to Deer Lodge. Near Deer Lodge it receives the Little Blackfoot River. From Deer Lodge it flows generally northwest across western Montana, passing south of the Garnet Range toward Missoula. Five miles east of Missoula, the river receives the Blackfoot River.
Northwest of Missoula, the river continues through a long valley along the northeast flank of the Bitterroot Range, through the Lolo National Forest. It receives the Bitterroot River from the south-southwest approximately 5½ mi west of downtown Missoula, and receives the Flathead River from the north near Paradise. It receives the Thompson River from the west near Thompson Falls in southern Sanders County.
At Noxon, Montana, along the north end of the Bitterroots near the Idaho border, the river is impounded by the Noxon Rapids Dam to form a 20 mi (32 km) long reservoir. It crosses into western Bonner County in northern Idaho near the town of Cabinet, Idaho. Approximately 5 mi (8 km) west of the Idaho-Montana state line, the river enters the eastern end of Lake Pend Oreille, near the town of Clark Fork.