Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States. Lying in the Flathead Valley of Northwest Montana, the lake is more then 300 feet deep and extends north and south some 28 miles and is seven to 15 miles wide.
As you drive on the roads that hug Flathead Lake’s shoreline, (US Highway 93 on the west and Montana Route 35 on the east) it’s hard to believe man-made dams, that are so common in the Pacific Northwest, didn’t create it. Rather, the lake is a fortuitous product of the activity of ice-age glaciers, and is fed by the Swan and Flathead Rivers.
All manner of water sports are enjoyed upon its 200 square miles of surface. Several state parks and lake shore communities have boat launches and marinas on the Lake.
You can avail yourself of a boat tour or rent one of the many types of watercraft including canoes, kayaks, windsurfers, hydro bikes, sailing and fishing boats. Serious anglers can arm themselves with heavy-duty equipment and probe the 300-foot deep Flathead Lake for trophy Mackinaw. Lake trout, salmon, perch, pike, bass, and whitefish are found in the Flathead area’s many lakes.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a stunningly beautiful ice-carved terrain of serrated ridges, jutting peaks, dramatic hanging valleys, 50 glaciers, more than 200 lakes, waterfalls and thick forests covering some 1.2-million acres. Deer are among the most commonly spotted wildlife but elk, moose, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzly and black bears roam its wild vastness and are often seen by visitors.
Goat Lick overlook, for example, is a natural salt lick on cliffs overlooking the southern border of the park. From a viewing platform just off US Highway 2 east of Essex you are sure to see mountain goats or other animals at any time of day enjoying the lick.
The park is unique among US parks in its relationship with the Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. The two parks meet at the border shared by the two countries. Though administered by separate countries, the parks are cooperatively managed in recognition that wild plants and animals ignore political boundaries and claim the natural and cultural resources on both sides of the border. In 1932, the parks were designated the first International Peace Park in recognition of the bonds of peace and friendship between the two nations. The two parks jointly share the name The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Then, in 1995, The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was designated for inclusion as a World Heritage Site.
Visitor Centers :
Glacier National Park is served by three Visitor Centers; Apgar, Logan Pass and St. Mary’s. Ranger-guided-naturalist activities are available throughout the park from mid-June through September. Call 406-888-5441 for details. You might like to inquire about having lunch on a glacier! The park has more than 700 miles of trails ranging from day hikes to extended treks. Trailheads for popular day hikes can be found near the visitors’ centers.
Going-to-the-Sun Road :
The famed 52-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road climbs 3,000 feet to provide spectacular views across the Continental Divide from June to October. It is closed the rest of the year due to heavy snows. Glacier Park Inc. operates a daily shuttle service along this road, from July 1 to Labor Day Weekend in September. The shuttle operates between Rising Sun Motor Inn and Lake McDonald Lodge, a useful service for those who have oversized rigs not allowed on the road, and others who would rather not drive the narrow mountain roads themselves.
Early in the 20th century, the Great Northern Railway built chalets to market Glacier National Park as the “Switzerland of America”. Although many no longer exist, Granite Park Chalet and Sperry Chalet are open to the public. Be warned that the former has no running water. The most popular route to Granite Park Chalet is a 7-mile hike along the Highline Trail from Logan Pass.