Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

One of the defining elements of the Flathead Valley is Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. It stretches north and south for 27 miles and averages 7 miles in width! It is truly a sight to behold. Flathead Lake is fed by the three forks of the Flathead River. Flathead Lake was created by the glaciers that moved down the Rocky Mountains from Canada. They built up a natural moraine at the southern end of the Lake, present day Polson. When the ice age ended, more than 10,000 years ago, the surrounding glaciers melted and filled the large depression, creating what we now know as Flathead Lake.

Flathead Lake was the main mode of transportation before there were roads or trains. In the early 1900s steamboats carried passengers and freight back and forth from Demersville (approximately 4 miles south of Kalispell on the northern end of the lake that no longer exists) to Polson. When the road on the west shore was finished the steamboat traffic ended. Polson was the first settlement along the shores of the lake in 1880, and began as Lambert's Landing and then was established as a town in 1898. Somers was founded in 1902 as a mill town and was a central point for logging operations. Bigfork was founded in 1901 by Everit Sliter.

There are six state parks and several fishing access on Flathead Lake. Wildhorse Island is a landmark in Flathead Lake. It is located at the south end by Big Arm and rises 850 feet out of the water. A trip to this State Park will bring sights of a few remaining wild horses, Big Horn Sheep, deer, owl, eagles and osprey. There are numerous hiking trails around the island and great places for a picnic.

Although Flathead Lake is a natural lake, Kerr Dam at the southern end of the lake in Polson helps to control the water levels of the lake. During the winter season the water is let out of the lake until May when the lake reaches full pool again. Lowering the lake helps to meet power demands as well as protect many docks and property during the winter from ice movement. Flathead Lake has some remarkable storms and during a windy day it isn't uncommon to see large whitecaps rolling across the surface.

Perhaps the most famous aspect of Flathead Lake is the legendary "Flathead Lake Monster." The locals will tell you tales that go back hundreds of years of sightings of this creature. Often there are large waves that may appear on the calmest of days with no boats in sight, some speculate that there is a huge sturgeon living in the lake, but no one knows for sure.

No visit to the Flathead Valley is complete without sampling some of the Flathead Cherries that are famous. The climate of the Flathead Valley is conducive to the cherries growth. As spring comes to the Flathead, the white blossoms begin to show and then in late summer the bright red juicy fruit are ready for picking.

Flathead Lake Stats

Maximum Length - 27.3 miles
Maximum Width - 15.5 miles
Maximum Depth - 370.7 feet
Average Depth - 164.7
Area Covered by the Lake - 191.5 sq miles
Area Covered by Islands - 5.5 sq miles
Volume of Water - 5.56 cu miles
Length of Shoreline
Mainland - 161.4 miles
Island - 26.2 miles
Total - 187.6 miles

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Contact Information

Photo of Corey Olofson, Broker Real Estate
Corey Olofson, Broker
RE/MAX of Whitefish
509 E. 6th St.
Whitefish MT 59937
Office: 406.863.3400
Cell: 406.253.0531
Fax: 406.863.3400