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Flathead Lake / Wild Horse Island in Montana - Weekend Trip Report

Trip Overview

Launched from Zelenzy access point at 2pm. First we paddled east/ northeast around the point to view the painted rocks. This is a nice side trip (aprx. 1/4 mile) from the put in. Native peoples painted petroglyphs here centuries ago. They can still be seen and studied today right from your kayak.

After departing from the petroglyphs, we encountered increasing rough waters. Winds out of the west created a surface current pulling us out into open lake waters away from direction of travel. We had to fight both the current and the swells to maintain our heading to Cedar Island, our predetermined camp site for the evening.

We circumnavigated the island around the west side to the southern tip and back to the east shore where we found a good camp site. Swam, fished and relaxed as we watched the last light of the evening.

Next morning we launched for Wild Horse Island on calm waters. 3 miles to the closest shore and then paddled west about another mile to Osprey Cove and then onto Eagle Cove. Witnessing Bald eagles, osprey and Henry hawks along the shoreline. We pulled our kayak ashore at Eagle Cove and hiked inland to view the wildlife on the island. The wild horses were elusive this day, but after climbing the highest peak on the island, we viewed and photographed as many as 40 Dal Sheep roaming the cliffs as well as a few grouse, mule deer bedding sites, and amazing panoramas of Flathead Lake from atop the peaks.

Returning to our kayak at about midday, and after relaxing a bit with some shore fishing, we headed back to Cedar Island against prevailing winds and then onto the boat launch area where we started from the previous day.

All in all, this was a pleasant two day trip. Because its only about a total of 10 miles with the painted rock side trip included, this paddle to Wild Horse Island could easily be done in a day. But camping out at Cedar Island was a fun and relaxing way to do this trip. I recommend a night stay on Cedar Island as its very peaceful and breaks up an otherwise long day of paddling.

Note of caution: Wind, waves, and current become a serious problem and hazard at times. Especially afternoons. Early morning water travel is recommended for beginners and even intermediates.


Nearest accommodations (pre or post trip) are at West Shore State Park campgrounds, Dayton, or Lakeside.


Sea Kayak - Dagger Trinidad two man with rudder


Check at the local ranger station regarding Cedar Island camping regs, fees, and fire restrictions as these may change depending on season.


Traveling north from Polson on Hwy 93. Turn off at Zelenzy Rd. Approximately 1 mile north of Rollins. If coming from Summers area, drive south on Hwy 93 and look for Zelenzy Rd. about 3 miles past West Shore State Park. Descend the road as it winds down to the shore and boat ramp. Ask homeowners for directions as the road divides many times and is not marked well.


recommended maps

  1. Zoom in on Kalispell: then Flathead Lake: Wild Horse Island

  2. Marine Trail: PDF: Fig.1: Page 2
  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip