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Flathead Lake Cruising Guide

Welcome to Flathead Lake Sailing and Cruising!

Flathead Lake in Northwest Montana is 28 miles long, 15 miles wide and bordered by the beautiful Mission Mountains.  The Largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. Located just 20 minutes from Kalispell, Montana and a short hour from Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake offers predictable winds for amazing sailing experiences.

 Flathead Lake is simply a sailor’s dream. See below for a Flathead Lake Cruising Guide.

Flathead Lake, MT Navigational Map


​Go Sail Flathead Lake and Flathead Lake Biological Station University of Montana have teamed up to bring you a new waterproof map of Flathead Lake. It includes latitude and longitude scale, has a compass rose for navigation, and shows approximate anchorage spots on the lake. *Always use GPS to check depths.

Pick up Sailing Shop in Dayton, MT

June–August $20

Buy now – shipping included $23.95

Map comes rolled in a cardboard tube.


Gunkholing the Flathead
A list compiled by Ken Yachachek, updated by Go Sail Flathead Lake.

This list starts at the north end of the lake with Somers and goes counterclockwise from there. Fair winds and happy sailing!


Somers: For short outings with good anchoring, take the kids behind the islands in Somers Bay. It is away from the docks, but close enough to solve the many problems of family cruising.


Lakeside: Stop at the city docks for last minute shopping (usually ice) or duck into Peaceful Bay, which is good for day anchorages. A great place to weather storms. Beware of swimmer’s itch!


Hockaday Bay: Excellent day anchorage, sheltered from the north winds. About 1.5 hours from the North Flathead Yacht Club in Somers—a good destination for a day sail with guests.


Hughes Bay: Go deep into the bay (it curves around). Holding is good, however, protective cabin owners and water skiers abound. Watch for swimmer’s itch.


Deep Bay: Ground holding is good. Most boats can anchor with the bow tied to shore and the stern facing south, or just swing on a hook. The beach is narrow and drops off quickly. The west side of the bay loses the late sun while the east side is blocked from the morning sun.


West Shore State Park: Day anchorage only. Need a skiff to get to shore. Open to most weather.


Table Bay: A private facility. It is a great weather hole when moving up and down the lake.


Cedar Island: State of Montana land. Rock ledges surround the island and there are only a few anchorages. The abandoned house in the northwest has a spot large enough to tie up 2–3 boats.


Cedar Island Southwest Bay: Excellent overnight with a good gravel bottom. Protected except from the west. You can stern tie, but will need to get wet to get to shore. For those who dive or snorkel, the rock formations offshore provide great viewing.


Shelter Bay: A deep sheltered bay with development along the shore.


Canal Bay: A highly developed bay with good holding and protection.


Skeeko Bay: A popular bay for sailors with good holding. Hiking on the island is fabulous and great for the kids to release pent-up energy from the sail down. Remember to check in at the shore station and pay the nominal fee. Montana Fish and Game patrol the island regularly so have your documents and safety equipment in order.


Dayton Yacht Harbor: Privately owned.  Buck Love has been very gracious in letting North Flathead Yacht Club members use the facilities. Please Call ahead before you make your departure. Check in when arriving for slip assignment.


Great South Bay on Wild Horse Island: Used primarily by racers for overnights prior to races in Big Arm. Power Boats are common as this is also called Mack Alley, a popular fishing area.


Big Arm Resort:  Fuel Dock, no pump out. Refreshments and some supplies available.


Indian Bay/Whiskey Cove: Whiskey Cove at the south end of the bay is a super weather hole, but not an overnight location.


Big Bull Island: This well-known landmark is in the narrows. A big bay on the south side protects well, but is open to the southeast. The best anchorage is back in the western end of the bay. Swimming is excellent. Beware of a rock, marked, offshore about 100 yards.


Polson: Need supplies, dinner, or whatever? Polson is just a short hop from Bull Island. Go to the Salish Point Park docks to tie up.


Bird Island: Another Montana State wildlife island, good for day anchorage or calm nights. Overnighting on the island is a no-no.


Yellow Bay: A well-protected state park. The bay is deep so let out plenty of line. A store is just up the road and during harvest there is a cherry stand along the highway close to the anchorage.


Woods Bay: There are bars and restaurants on the east side of the bay. The Sitting Duck has docking facilities, and if you want to stay the night try the west side of the bay near the marina.


I hope this guide will get you exploring Flathead Lake. Many other great anchorages exist, so have fun finding them and … stay safe!


Happy sailing!