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Vacation Guide

Flathead Lake Vacation Guide

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Recreation Opportunities

State Parks around Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake maintains 185 miles of shoreline and contains 200 square miles of natural freshwater earning it the title “the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi in the lower 48 states”.  The southern half of Flathead Lake is within the boundary of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Flathead Reservation. Recreationists involved in recreational activities must purchase a tribal recreation permit when engaging in activities on the southern half of Flathead Lake.  There are 13 public access sites around Flathead Lake maintained by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.  If you are planning a vacation to Flathead Lake, consider the Ultimate Flathead Lake Vacation Guide.


Wildhorse Island

This is one of North America's largest islands, at 2,163 acres. It is now being preserved as a Wilderness Area. Wildhorse Island is home to many species of wildlife, horses among them. It is widely believed that Salish and Pend d'Oreille tribes brought horses to the island first. They hid their horses on the island to keep the Blackfoot tribes from taking them during raids. In 1977, the Bureau of Land Management brought wildhorses back to the island again. Bighorn sheep were brought to Wildhorse Island as a tourist attraction, but the herd grew so much that many had to be relocated.

Bird watchers love the island because it is home to a great number of species. Among the birds found on the island are a variety of ducks, swans and geese, red tailed hawk, bald eagle, and many small songbirds. There is a wonderful variety of bird and wildlife species to be found everywhere around Flathead Lake.

The only way to get to Wildhorse Island is by boat. There are cruises and boat rentals available from Big Arm. The island is a day use area only.

Big Arm State Park

Flathead is the largest natural freshwater lake in the western United States. Twenty-eight miles long and 15 miles wide, Flathead Lake is renowned for its fishing. Wild Horse Island, a 2,163 acre wilderness area on the west shore of the lake, is home to bald eagles, bighorn sheep, yellow-pine chipmunks, and wild horses.

On Flathead Lake's Big Arm Bay, this park is a popular jump-off point to Wild Horse Island. Big Arm's long pebble beach is popular with sunbathers and swimmers. Camping under a stand of mature ponderosa pine and juniper is a major attraction. Others include: fishing for lake trout, board sailing, boating, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, bicycling, hiking the 2.5 mile trail, wildlife viewing, scuba diving, and water-skiing. This site is 2,953 feet in elevation and has 217 acres.

The park has both flush and vault toilets, tent/RV sites, bear resistant storage locker, boat trailer parking, public phone, sheltered picnic tables, drinking water, grills/fire rings, firewood, picnic tables, trash cans, drinking water, coin operated showers, group camping and group day-use. RV/trailer size is limited to 30 feet in the 41 sites. There are also 7 tent sites available.

The Big Arm State Park now has the latest in circular camping comfort, a 20 feet wide, 10 feet tall yurt. You only need to bring bedding, cooking utensils, personal toiletries, a flashlight and a container for water. Electrical outlets, lights, electric heat and a propane barbecue for outdoor cooking are also provided. A joint state/tribal fishing license is needed for fishing at this park and campers may stay only 14 days during a 30 day period. Pets are required to be on leashes. Fees are charged for day use and camping.

A golf course and three museums are located in nearby Polson.

Provided by: Montana's Official State Travel Site

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