Hello and Welcome to the Real Estate Offices of Stelling & Associates and Stelling Ranch & Land. Founded and operated by father C.R ‘Chuck’ Stelling (Broker for Stelling Ranch & Land) & his son, Steve Stelling, (Broker for Stelling & Associates). We have been in the same location, The Montana Building in Missoula, for over 35 years and along with 7 associates (as well as, 3rd Generation Stephen Stelling, Jr.). We offer over 150 years of combined real estate experience.
We Welcome you To Western Montana where the Rivers & Mountains are truly Spectacular, where most everyone is Gracious and Hospitable and where your Next Adventure is Right Around The Corner; we think you’ll feel Right At Home!
Big Sky country encompasses a vast landscape. For many who have never experienced Montana, it may conjure up romantic images of the Old West and a Wild Frontier portrayed by Hollywood and fiction novels. We do have Indian Reservations, and more cows than people, but the real Montana may be very different than some people believe. So what is it that attracts people and makes those of us who live here love it so much? The people and the reasons may be as diverse as the land itself. Quite often our State is observed as 2 distinctively different worlds with the backbone of the continent, the ‘Continental Divide’, separating the wide open plains of the East side, from the mountains & valleys of the West side. There are, however, a number of things Montanan’s all share. A huge wealth of natural resources provides countless outdoor recreation opportunities, eye-soothing scenery, and a place to contemplate our lives and the worlds in an inspiring environment. A relatively conservative approach to politics where government regulation and interference is frowned upon, yet different views, opposing opinions, and what seems like completely different personalities who are able to get along and live together. Almost everyone appreciates and values the quality-of-life, lower crime rates, and lack of traffic, congestion, stress, and fast-pace, that are common else where. The friendly greetings, courteous actions, and non-judgmental attitude are usually noticed and commented on by first-time visitors. The easy pace, more carefree life style and smiles, of those enjoying every day, can be contagious. It may indeed well be, that it is the people that makes Montana so great, but Montana may also make the people better.
There could never be enough time to explore and take advantage of all the natural wonders Montana has to offer. So don’t waste any more time; get yourself and your family to Montana and treat yourself to the inspiration that makes every day a GREAT ONE!
Why Stelling Real Estate?
Our office is small enough to provide friendly, knowledgeable & personal service, yet large enough to help with all of your real estate needs. Missoula is where our “home” offices reside and we can be found in the 100+ year old Montana Building in the ‘Downtown’ area on the corner of Higgins & Broadway. We have two companies to better serve you. Stelling & Associates website at- http://www.stelling.net & Stelling Ranch & Land – http://www.ranchandland.com And if you don’t happen to see the right place in our current showings, we will be happy to do a Multiple Listings search of the 2 Largest systems. We cover all of Western Montana & beyond and would love to assist you in finding that ‘just right place’. Spring and summer in Montana are magical. Western Montanans know that we are extremely blessed; being able to wake up to spectacular sunrises, dew covered grass, & meadowlarks calling. Long days of endless azure skies and warm breezes, and daylight lasting until well past 9 or 10:00 p.m. Evenings allow us to catch our breath, offering a polite coolness that makes sleep easy with the windows open. Our days are filled with gardening, golfing, biking, water sports, hiking, fishing and wildlife watching. Trips to Missoula’s Greenough Park to sit beside Rattlesnake Creek and watch joggers and picnicker’s, while enjoying the creeks coolness amid the cities hubbub. Hiking to the ‘M’ (the mountain overlooking the University of Montana) in the early morning to enjoy the pleasant Western vista below. Watching kayakers take on Brennans wave from the downtown Higgins bridge, or floating the famous Blackfoot River, or fly fishing along the banks of the renown Rock Creek, for rainbow trout. Strolling through the grounds of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula or visiting the Elk Foundation and learning more about those elusive, majestic creatures. Attending ‘Out To Lunch’ at Caras Park on Wednesdays and then riding the colorful and quick Carousel or watching the children play around Dragon Hollow playground at River Front Park; alongside the impressive Clark Fork River. Enjoying the ‘Current’s’ indoor pool & slide or the outdoor ‘Splash’ waterpark on a hot summer day. Strolling the many local museums and shops in Downtown Missoula on a warm Friday evening for the Art Walk. Missoula really shows off its’ own special look and a feel that can only be described as eclectic. Enjoy playing 9-holes on the mountainside at Highlands Golf Course, and then sipping an ice cold drink on the deck, while admiring the view of the entire Missoula Valley in its summer green glory or, even better, a sumptuous late dinner there at ‘The Keep’, with the city’s lights twinkling below. Missoula is, after all, nicknamed the ‘Garden City’ and oh, does it show.
Yes, we are certainly grateful for being able to live in an area with such sheer beauty surrounding us daily. The sky, the mountains, the trees, and the friendliness of the people – all are constant reminders of just how blessed we truly are. As a visitor from the Midwest once said to us, “Noone can tell you about the beauty of this place. You have to see it and experience it first hand, with your own eyes. It is amazing!
Missoula is also known as the ‘Hub of 5 Valleys’ and just like the spokes on the Stelling wagon wheel logo, so are the valleys that flow from Missoula. They are: ‘The Clark Fork Valley’ to the West, the ‘Flathead Valley’ to the North, the ‘Blackfoot Valley’ to the NE, the ‘Deerlodge Valley’ to the East and the ‘Bitterroot Valley’ to the South. And, similar to limbs of a huge tree, these large valleys split into smaller branches (or valleys or canyons) and so on. (We currently have available our 1000+ Acre Elk Hide-Out recreational property on Black Mountain; only 25+ minutes to Missoula).
And now please join us on a journey to these special valleys, in hopes that you will someday get to visit this beautiful place we call home, and explore the wonder – of Western Montana. We ask that you bring along a vivid and colorful imagination; lets begin our sojourn.
Leaving Missoula east on I-90, we pass through the narrow Hellgate Canyon (most likely named as such because it was a favorite place of the Blackfeet Indians to ambush other tribes on their return trips from hunting buffalo on the Great Plains). Although the name might still aptly apply, as this rugged little canyon acts as a funnel for the cold east winds as they rush into the Missoula Valley. Our coldest winter weather, coming out of the arctic North, often is pushed around the mountains to the east, before seeping back into the protected valleys of Western Montana.
Just beyond the Hellgate Canyon, lies East Missoula, one of our many bedroom communities (we have listed a great family Log Home here) as well as Bonner and Milltown where the Blackfoot River (Big) and Highway 200 branch off to the North East – (please note: this is the exit that we will refer to, as an easier access to Garnet Ghost Town).
As we continue East, we see a couple of other small communities that are supported by Missoula; Clinton & Turah and then a few miles down the road we come to the ‘Bearmouth Chalet RV park’. The road running behind it, takes us on a wonderful Montana adventure to Garnet Ghost Town. Please note that the Ghost Town is more easily accessed from Hwy. 200 and we recommend that you use this well graveled road that has a more gradual climb and has spectacular mountaintop views as you ascend ever higher. The access from the I-90 side can be very steep and treacherous. Even the last mile of the Hwy 200 road is a very narrow, windy logging road that gives you a taste of what the I-90 access is like. If you find this part of the road comfortable, and your vehicle is capable, then you may wish to exit the Ghost Town via the I-90 side.
Once you have made your way to Garnet, you will come to a true ghost town and be enthralled at how hardy and rugged these first miners had to be, to exist. The town still has about 25 buildings, some of which, like the J.K. Wells Hotel and Kelly’s Saloon, are remarkably evocative of their original day. In 1898 the town had nearly 1,000 inhabitants, four stores (Which, at the time, competed successfully with Missoula’s retail), four hotels, stables, barber shops, a candy store, a doctor’s office, and more than ten saloons. But this wasn’t your average rough-and-drunken boomtown. Because many miners had already married by the time they made it to Garnet, the town had a school. In 1898 Garnet School had 41 kids, and the town thrived on social events as much as the ore in mountains. And then, all too quickly it was gone. Typical of all boomtowns, the growth was quick and haphazard; the heyday wasn’t too long before the end. By 1905, the mines seemed played out and the town was down to 150 people. Today the ghost town remains engulfed by wilderness, and connected to it by the Garnet Byway; 12 miles of mountain road and 41 miles of trail, offering a substantial avenue from the mining-legacy of the past to the recreational opportunities of today. Scenic overlooks provide views of current and historical extraction sites, so the public may observe how the land has been used, while now its’ used for recreation.
We suggest you bring a picnic lunch with plenty of beverages (there are no convenience stores up there) a jacket and some comfortable walking/hiking shoes, and of course your camera.
About 25 miles east of Missoula, is one of Western Montana’s best Blue Ribbon trout streams – “Rock Creek” – that enters the Clark Fork River (we currently have some nice recreation cabins up this valley for sale). Following the many hatches up this incredible stream, is the greatest joy of many a fly fisherman. Numerous access points and several campgrounds are readily available. On your way up or back down Rock Creek, you may want to stop for a great meal and rustic ambiance at the ‘Ekstrom Station’. Don’t forget to watch for Bighorn Sheep, on the colorful cliffs lining this relatively narrow valley.
Back on I-90, as we follow the Clark Fork River upstream, the rise in elevation is so subtle that it often goes unnoticed, but winter weather will quickly remind you. Not a high snowfall area, this doesn’t benefit from the protection of the mountains as much as other areas further west. Stelling & Associates currently has several nice listings sprinkled across the nice rural community known as the Gold Creek area (between Rock Creek and Drummond).
The valley grows larger as we travel east and at Drummond (50 miles East of Missoula), it really opens up. Drummond, (“World Famous Bull Shippers” is on a billboard, as you enter town) is a small rural, one main street town, with all the basic services including stockyards along the railroad, for shipping of area cattle to markets, far off. For a scenic side trip many travelers may enjoy the Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Loop, which leaves Drummond on Hwy 1 and heads South past Phillipsburg, Georgetown Lake and Discovery Basin Ski Area, before returning to I-90 at Anaconda, Montana.
Visiting Phillipsburg is a treat to another time. This unique and quiet, former mining town is tucked away off the beaten path and retains a slower pace and charming buildings, of years past. For a little fun prospecting, you can buy buckets of dirt to sift through for sapphires (a ‘find’, if not several, is guaranteed.) Or visit the famous chocolate and candy store and try some excellent homemade Fudge (not open on Saturdays but they are open from Sunday thru Friday). An area of larger ranches, this is a beautiful valley of lush irrigated meadows surrounded by tree-speckled foothills, below snow-capped peaks.
Flint Creek, which flows through the middle of most of the valley, is excellent fishing – as are the countless creeks and mountain lakes – in the vast National Forest reserves, which surround the area.
Georgetown Lake, the States highest producing fish lake, is great fishing both winter and summer. Icehouses bespeckle the shoreline in the winter and boating is popular in the summer. We currently have waterfront acreage, and also a wonderful historic waterfront lodge for sale, on beautiful Georgetown Lake (located on our website under the Homes with Waterfront category).
Discovery Basin Ski Area overlooks this pristine lake and provides challenging double black diamond runs, on its back side, as well as an excellent variety of intermediate and beginner slopes for the entire family. They have a nice lodge, but like so many of the states smaller areas, there are no over night accommodations on the mountain. Discovery Basin Powder Mountain, serves mostly locals – with no lift lines or crowded slopes. However, there are only a few lodges, motels and campgrounds within minutes of the ski area and Georgetown Lake (you may want to reserve a room or camping ‘spot’ early and check for availability) or travel ‘just over the hill’ to Anaconda and Fairmont Hot Springs for an extra special weekend of ‘snow/water ski, golf and soak’. Check out the ‘Old Works’ golf course; a challenging Jack Nicklaus designed golf course that was built and paid for with ‘Super Fund’ monies; it is known for its’ beauty and black slag traps.
Continuing East on Interstate 90, past Drummond, we next come to Garrison Junction – which is marked by a single Gas Station. This is where the Little Blackfoot flows into the Clark Fork River.
If we follow the Little Blackfoot due East, we come to the small ranching communities of Avon and Elliston, before crossing the Continental Divide at McDonald Pass (elev. 6300+ ft.) and arriving at our State’s capitol, Helena.
Now we need to back track some, where we find ourselves just past East Missoula, and where we take the Bonner exit cross over the Clark Fork River and begin to head North along the Blackfoot River; where the famed “A River Runs Through It” from author Norman McLean was conceived. The beauty and ruggedness of this canyon is still enthralling. Watch for Mountain Sheep along the high, jagged rocks. But after several miles, this narrow, rugged terrain drastically changes, yet again, and opens up into a wide valley known as the ‘Potomac’. There is a small convenience store, restaurant and school here. (We are proud to be representing the beautiful Union Creek 4000+ Acre Ranch that is for sale in this pristine valley, as well as, a 560 acre property to build your dream view home on).
We again continue northeast, (this direction will lead us to the nice small town of Lincoln, where we have an impressive, like-new Log Home on 50+ acres) but now begin to look for our main point of reference for our next turn off. Turn left at the big ‘Bull’. Yup, left at the Bull (an enormous cow statue). This is Clearwater Junction where continuing north brings us eventually to Great Falls. But now we turn left and head west. Watch for Elk along the right side of the Highway as you go pass the grasslands, but soon the road enters the forest again (please remember and drive cautiously as this area, especially the further you drive up ‘The Swan’ area, that it has an enormous deer population and they are very hard to see beside the road, especially at dawn, dusk and after dark; deer-thirty) where we are greeted by the placid waters of Salmon Lake (day picnicking, swimming and boat ramp).
Then from around the bend and a few miles ahead lies the town of Seeley; the lake lies alongside the town. This bustling little town in midsummer makes the town size close to 6000, but is reduced to about 1/2 that when the deep snows and cooler temperature of winter arrives. This is when jet skis and boats give way to snow mobile enthusiasts, with races being held right on the lake. A 9-hole golf course just South of Seeley Lake adds another form of recreation, as well as, a great resort for lodging and dining.
As you head up the Swan Valley you will realize that this entire area of the ‘Swan’ is a hiker, equestrian and fisherman’s paradise with countless trails into the ‘Bob Marshall Wilderness’ to the east and the ‘Mission Mountain Wilderness’ to the west. Dotted with hundreds of mountain lakes and endless streams, teeming with trout, these vast recreation playgrounds remain very much the same as they appeared before white men ever ventured into this primitive land. Besides these incredible wilderness areas, there is a large portion of this part of the State, that is National Forest and State lands, as is the case with much of Western Montana. These lands (as well as those land grant parcels, given to the Rail Road years ago) are now managed by Plum Creek (the timber subsidiary of Burlington Northern) who maintain these areas of public access for many recreation activities. With less than 10% of the valley in private ownership, a very few larger tracts are ever available for sale, and values tend to be slightly higher than some other areas. However, the breath-taking vistas and countless recreation opportunities make this a very attractive area.
If you do plan to enter the ‘Bob’ – remember that this is a true wilderness area. Pack accordingly and with safety in mind. This is land that is ‘untouched’ by man and is home to deer, elk, grizzly bear, mountain lion, brown/black bear and many other species of wildlife. The ‘Bob’ is isolated by a long stretch of mountains referred to as the ‘Great Wall’. This range limits access (only by hiking and horse trails) to the wilderness and allows for spectacular views and nature in its purest form.
The entire ‘Swan Valley’ seems to be beautiful mountain views with easy access to lake after lake after lake. From ‘Salmon Lake’ to ‘Seeley Lake’ to ‘Lindbergh Lake’, ‘Holland Lake’, ‘Lake Alva’, ‘Placid Lake, ‘Lake Inez’, ‘Swan Lake’ and the ‘Clearwater River’ – the water recreation activities are limitless. There is nothing finer, than spending a hot summer day up the ‘Swan’, on a cool mountain lake that is surrounded by pine trees and fantastic views or beside a bubbling stream amid green ferns in the cedar pines of a Montana rain forest.
But now we are back in Missoula to begin our next leg of the 5-Valleys. This time to the South where we follow Hwy 93 past the Buckhouse Bridge and about 5 miles, is our first stop at Lolo, a small town that surrounds a man made lake and is the junction for Hwy 12 to Idaho. Here we will take a quick detour only stopping for eats at ‘Guy’s Steak House’, just off at the junction and to the right of the highway. Then it’s back on Hwy 12 to meander up the Lolo Creek area.
This area is part of Lewis and Clark’s famous trail, as well as other historic importance at Fort Fizzle (you may want to learn more about this area at the library or online, famous as part of Chief Joseph’s “Trail of Tears”). This narrow canyon with deep green pine-covered trees makes for a lovely drive. Careful – the road is a bit windy and narrow at times but well worth the drive for its’ beauty and our next destination – Lolo Hot Springs.
This natural hot springs provides visitors with comfort and also offers a sweet nostalgia that reports of this area’s important historic past. I hope you brought your swimsuit, to soak in the indoor pool or to loll around the outdoor pool. Then a quick hike up the boulder strewn mountainside to find a quiet spot with which to view the mountains and valley below. And back in time to enjoy a nice cold drink with dinner at the restaurant and lodge.
But now its time to again continue our trip, by traveling back to Lolo and then continuing South on Hwy 93 where we will head to Western Montana’s ‘Banana Belt’ if you will (one of the States most temperate climates) – which is south to Ravalli County, or better known as The Bitterroot Valley (we presently have a wonderful Horse Ranch, as well as, a beautiful home with a Babbling Brook setting for sale).
With the Bitterroot Selways to the West and the Sapphire Mountains to the East this temperate and wide valley has seen tremendous growth throughout the 80’s and 90’s.
Florence is our first small community that has small town amenities and the usual high school that promotes community participation and spirit.
Next is Stevensville (just East of Hwy 93 at the junction) a wonderful western town that has quaint shops and a rural feel and also offers a bit of wetlands wildlife watching at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge that has a new visitors center or visit St. Mary’s Mission, the oldest site in Western Montana. Stevensville’s main street is lined with quaint shops and offers all of the small town amenities.
On past Victor, another small town, then to the Corvallis crossing where you find another little burg, with a lovely small-town country atmosphere and appeal.
Finally reaching Hamilton, the County seat and a nice community that offers all of the amenities that a bigger city has, but in a smaller, close knit community. Here the Hamilton Fair is highlighted over Labor Day, the Creamery picnic takes place in July and the exquisite mansion and manor grounds of Marcus Daly (Anaconda Copper King baron) is open to the public for a nominal fee. You can hike into the Bitterroot/Selway wilderness area or just enjoy the view of striking Blodgett Canyon from downtown Hamilton, where you can find fine dining, and numerous artisans offer their wares in downtown stores or at the farmers market that is held at the Old Courthouse lawn, on Saturday mornings.
Continuing South on Hwy 93 brings us to Darby, another fine, solid community that offers its’ residents most services. And then we come to Lost Trail Ski area (just before the Idaho border), a fine place for locals who love to ski but don’t like long lift lines or high lift ticket prices.
Now let’s go back to Missoula and begin our trip to the west, where you will find the views to be spectacular, with pine-tree covered mountains on either side of I-90 all the way to Idaho. In the autumn, you will notice ‘Tamarack Trees’ that add color to the forested hillsides, as they lose their needles and change from a dark green to burnt orange and then to a brilliant yellow, in color.
The first exit is known as the “Y” where I-90 meets Hwy 93 North, followed by the Frenchtown exit. This community was first settled by French/Canadians and is known for its’ high quality of living, exceptional schools and lifestyle. Frenchtown is a bedroom city to Missoula with an easy commute and offers small town conveniences as well as the King Ranch Golf Course, along the Clark Fork River, where it is fun to stop for Sunday brunch and watch the flocks of geese that nest here, as you dine. Also, as we continue west, watch for Osprey nests sitting high atop the trees and on telephone poles. In the spring these nests have 2 or 3 ‘young ones’. You may spot Osprey, Golden Eagles and Bald Eagles diving for fish in the rivers, ponds and lakes of Western Montana; remember to keep your eyes open and your binoculars and camera ready.
Huson and the six-mile area is the next exit off of I-90 where, in the spring and the fall, watch closely along the north side of the Interstate, for feeding elk. (At present we have 2 wonderful homes in this sought after area, one with 5 acres one a Log Home with Shop & Pond on 20+ acres).
The next exit is ‘9-mile’ (which is 9 miles from Frenchtown) and is North of the Interstate. Like much of the area along I-90, this area is also dotted with ranchettes and has rural homes that co-exist with the wildlife. Deer & Elk are your neighbors (as well as other wildlife) and at a higher elevation, there is a release program area for the benefit of re-introducing the Wolf. Continuing north up 9-Mile Road will bring you to the Forest Services’ manned ‘Remount Station’ – where mules have been used for many years, to service the ‘back country’ of Montana.
As we venture back to I-90, you will notice that the Clark Fork River continues to grow; with the addition of 6-Mile Creek, 9-Mile Creek and just beyond Petty Creek (about 25 Miles West of Missoula) is the former railroad town of Alberton, which marks the end of Missoula County and the start of Mineral County. With a population of 3600+/-, Alberton is Mineral County’s second ‘largest’ (?) community and has the usual small town amenities. (Stelling & Associates has several wonderful homes and small ranches in the Petty Creek and Fish Creek areas).
As we travel further west on I-90, the private property begins to shrink; along with the valley. Less than 8% of this 1220 Sq. Mile County is privately owned; with the majority of the land being National Forest.
The next town is Superior, which is the County Seat. A former ‘Logging Town’, Superior is about 50 miles from Missoula and sports its own Hospital, paved Air Strip, and a new High School. Superior probably has the mildest climate of any town (in Mineral County) and is the geological center.
I-90 continues to follow the Clark Fork River, as far as St. Regis. At this small community, the Clark Fork makes a dramatic turn north and slightly back to the East, where it travels another 20+/- miles North East, to join the Flathead River; near Paradise, Montana. And now instead of going North East, the ‘Clark Fork’ cuts through the mountains to join the Flathead River, near Plains.
Continuing along this diversion for now, we follow a mountain-lined valley running from St. Regis towards the Flathead River; we see no private property or homes for most of the 20 Miles. This was only a R/R route until 1963 when the State Highway Department built the existing Highway along the Clark Fork. Near its junction with the ‘Flathead’ is Quinn Hot Springs where, before the highway was built, arthritic patients were wheeled across this 100+ Ft. wide River, on a footbridge in wheelbarrows and from trains stopping on along the way. The tradition continues, as now, there is a wonderful resort, with fine dining. (Not far from here is the turn-off to Hot Springs, Montana where we have the Camas Creek 900+ Acre Ranch for sale).
The very small town of Paradise lies at the junction of the Clark Fork and the Flathead River. Possibly the mildest climate in all the state, this clement valley running to the Northwest, including the pleasant and small (yet larger) community of Plains, which was a common wintering ground for many Indian Tribes; where they ‘wintered’ their horses. Hence today, the area is known as Wildhorse Plains. (We are offering a wonderful get-away cabin with water, water, water, creek and ponds set in a private wonderland – agent owned).
Plains, is just 5 miles from Paradise, and is a delightful & charming, self-contained, small town – (which hosts the County Fair) running alongside the Clark Fork River. With its own City Park, Hospital, and Mini-mall – and a great place to obtain most of the basic services; we like to call it “Small Town America.” (We currently have a great small ranch in the Eagle Valley). Supporting a fairly large rural population, together with the County Seat of Thompson Falls, these are the largest towns in a County with a total population of 10,089 (1995 census) covering over 2762 square miles.
Thompson Falls, 20 miles North West of Plains, is another of Montana’s typical ‘small towns’ – a picturesque setting along the river (now dammed, extinguishing the falls and widening to a more placid river) has been supported by the timber industry. A dramatic change in climate is evident, as annual rainfall in the 20 miles from Plains to Thompson Falls doubles. This trend continues along the ‘Clark Fork’ as it heads Northwest towards Sandpoint, Idaho.
Several layer dams create Noxon Reservoir in the ‘far’ West reaches; as the towns of Trout Creek, Noxon and Heron trail along this fishing paradise. Now we return back to I-90, however, only to the town of St. Regis, (where we begin to follow the St. Regis River, upstream, west towards the Montana/Idaho Border).
The town of St. Regis, like so many other small Montana communities, has it’s own High School, several Restaurants, a large Travel Center, lovely Community Park, and a 9-Hole Golf Course; all the basic services (we have several properties available in this nice small town).
Continuing west, we pass numerous little towns, which are remnants of early day mining that dot the Valley. Some are no longer in existence; several have just a post office and very basic services. Further down I-90 are the very small towns of Deborgia, then Haugan, and finally Saltese; all still survive as remnants of their mining heritage.
When we began our journey uphill at St. Regis (for the first time since leaving Missoula) the snowfall and precipitation is markedly greater. At Saltese, the last town before heading ‘Up the Pass’ is where trains require large rotary blades, to remove the snow from the Rail Road tracks in the winter, which practically become tunnels through the deepening snow. Old photos show that some years people entered the Rail Road Station from the 2nd floor; at snow level.
At the top of ‘Lookout-Pass’ (the Montana/Idaho Border) is “Look-Out Ski Area”. Their homegrown, single chair lift and area, caters to locals and is one of the first Ski Areas to open, each season. This is an almost incomprehensible area in its vastness. National Forest stretches for miles over the Coeur d’Alene Mountains to the North and across the Bitterroot Mountains to the South; all the way through the ‘Wild & Scenic’ St. Joe River in Idaho. Crystal clear Glacier Lakes, speckle the Mountains; many teeming with Trout. The countless Trails and old ‘Logging Roads’, provide a maze of ‘avenues’ to explore, in this incredible area.
An exceptional book, written about one-of this areas more intriguing residents, is “The Ridge Runner”. Also, for those who enjoy reading about early history of our area, “ A Tough Trip Through Paradise” by Andrew Garcia – is a great read and is based on his diary, which was found at his homestead along the Clark Fork River, (and interestingly enough, which our office had on the market and sold, several years ago.)
Before we head back to Missoula, to explore another direction, did you know that private property in Western Montana really is comprised of a series of Valleys? In most cases, any time you leave the Valley floor and head up one of the ever-present hillsides, it invariably turns into National Forest; or possibly BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or BN (Burlington Northern) land. BLM is Federal Government land, and BN lands are tracts granted to the Railroads (when the Government wanted the R/R to build routes into undeveloped lands). These R/R tracts, usually in Sections (640 Acres), are most often managed for timber production by Plum Creek Timber (a BN subsidiary). Both BN & BLM, like National Forest, have maintained policies of Public Access and are common playgrounds for hikers, horseback riders, hunters, snowmobilers and other recreationists. Some areas are restricted, with no motor vehicles allowed, so please check ahead of time before you head out on your dirt bike or ATV.
Now, let’s continue North of Missoula, where we begin approximately 7 miles West on I-90. And where we will take the exit known locally as the ‘Y’. This exit forms the shape of a ‘Y’, hence it’s name, leaving us with the choice of going South (which takes us back to Missoula, by-way-of the airport) or heading North (on Highway 93), towards the beautiful Flathead Valley. We pass a few businesses and truck stops and outcroppings of homes, that comprise the ‘Y’, and then we begin to cross over a narrow pass; through the ridge of Mountains lining Missoula’s North Side. This is not one of Montana’s higher elevation passes, and not too steep, this relatively small gain (in elevation) often results in quite a bit more snow and winter than Missoula or the Valleys, that the immediate North endures. When you crest this Pass, you will arrive at the small town of ‘Evaro’.
Continue North, and soon, just as you turn a corner and rise the crest, you will be awestruck with the view of a sheer, towering, often snow-caked wall that forms the front of the ‘Mission Mountains’. This Glacier-Carved and Glacier-Speckled range runs from Snowbowl (ski area at Missoula) to the North end of Flathead Lake. Encasing its own wilderness, this rugged range of Mountains is impassable by vehicle (for close to 100 miles) except for a single rough, gravel road – open only during the summer months. The entire ‘Range’ is a wilderness of crystal-clear alpine Lakes (teeming with many cutthroat trout), end-less waterfalls, and rivulets of glacier born origin, racing between fields of glistening snow. In summer, you will see strips of yellow glacier lilies and patches of bear grass; crowned by their white haloed blossoms (but only blossom every few years). This undisturbed country is home to a complete array of wildlife, including the endangered Grizzly Bear. Maintained Forest Service trails into this natural wonderland, can be found at the head of most of the drainages, on both sides of this incredible Mountain Range.
The upper end of the greater Flathead Valley, is known as the ‘Jocko Valley’ (with the Jocko River rolling out of the largest gash in the Mission Mountains and the path of the only road that crosses them). This river crosses the valley to where it intersects with Highway 93 at Arlee, Montana. A typically self-sufficient small town with a class ‘C’ High School, it is supported by the surrounding small hay farms and ranches. We are back to a lower elevation and the area here, enjoys temperate climates, that continues to get milder as we travel North and downhill, along the Jocko River, to the next small pass (at the junction of Highway 93 and Highway 200). The ‘cluster of buildings’, at this junction, are named for Montana’s 1st Priest – Father Ravalli. The 18,540 acres (between the fork in these 2 established Highways) is the National Bison Range (established in 1908, to protect the American bison). Here is the entrance to this delightful wildlife preserve, which boasts a 19-mile self-guided auto tour available during the summer months. This refuge covers nearly 19,000 acres and allows for about 400 – 500 of these great shaggy beasts to roam natural grasslands. Other inhabitants are birds, whitetail & mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep and pronghorns (antelope).
On the West side of the refuge is the entrance to the ‘Bison Range’. Just beyond the entrance, the Jocko River enters the Flathead River, which turns to run North West (to the towns of ‘Paradise’, ‘Plains’, and ‘Thompson Falls’.) Highway 93 North however, goes over Ravalli Hill, along the East Side of the refuge. Coming up over this rise, yet once again, travelers are startled as they first see the stunning peaks of the ‘Mission Mountains’ that greets them here; this is at the head of the Mission Valley. A broad valley, with over 100,000 acres of agricultural land (irrigated by a complex irrigation system, fed by the mountain lakes) is composed of many small 160 to 640 acre parcels or more, productive ranches. Much of the center of this valley is dotted by pot-hole ponds, larger reservoirs and wet lands, with 3 large wildlife refuges, that are home to ducks, geese, hungarian partridges, pheasants, as well as, a variety of fish. Sportsmen, can enjoy bird hunting, fishing and other recreation, but will be required to purchase ‘Tribal’ permits (in addition to State licenses).
This valley (up to and including the South half of Flathead Lake, from Evaro) and from the tops of the ‘Missions’ to the far West side, of this 20+/- mile wide valley, is within the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation and is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes. The tribes are a combination of the Salish, the Pend d’ Oreilles and the Kootenai of which, out of approximately 6,700 enrolled tribal members, about 3,500 live on or near the reservation. An ‘open’ Reservation, this was opened to homesteading after tribal members were given their allotted 160 acre plots. The Flathead – Salish – Kootenai Tribe, still owns (in other parts of Montana what would be National Forest) the mountainous regions, the lakes and a corridor along the ‘Flathead River’. These very fertile valleys and towering mountain peaks of northwestern Montana are the motifs of the Flathead Reservation. The reservation comprises over 1.2 million acres. A very progressive tribe, they have their own college and a number of major business enterprises, in addition to managing the irrigation district and Kerr Dam and it’s hydroelectric plant (just South of Flathead Lake.)
Entering the ‘Mission Valley’ from the South, the first town and memorable site is of the ‘Mission’ (of Father Ravalli) in ‘St. Ignatius”. In its heyday the town of St. Ignatius – from 1875 to 1900 – included a printing press which produced “Narratives from the Holy Scripture in Kalispell,” and a “Kalispell Dictionary;” a lumber mill; an agricultural and industrial school for boys; and a boarding school for girls. This small town was built around the historic ‘Mission’ itself, which is a charming and fascinating Catholic Church that laid its cornerstone in 1891, at the foot of the spectacular Mission Mountains. Today, the mill, press and the schools are long gone – but the church remains. It is interesting to note that the 58 beautiful murals inside the ‘Mission’, were painted by Brother Joseph Carignano (1853-1919), an Italian Jesuit who served the mission as cook and handyman. Although he had no formal training in art, he undertook to decorate the church with paintings of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as well as pictures of some of the saints. As you stand inside the church, looking at his artwork, it is extremely difficult to believe that this was done by an amateur who painted in what little time he could spare from his duties as cook and custodian. The words that come to everyone’s lips are “miraculous” and “amazing”. Two special murals are the Salish Lord and Lord’s mother in Native American form, which are located in the back of the Mission. Admission to the ‘Mission’ and two smaller historical buildings is free. There is a gift shop and museum connected to the church, which sells Indian artifacts and religious items. Donations are accepted. The ‘Mission’ is open daily from 9:00 to 8:00 in summer and 9:00 to 5:00 in winter. Services are held in the church on Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. and well worth the time to stop and visit. St. Ignatius has a class ‘C’ High School, medical facilities and all those small town amenities that make life easier. (We are proud to represent a wonderful Horse Arena, as well as, a nice remodeled Farmhouse and 40 Mountain View acres).
About 10 miles north from St. Ignatius is “Ninepipe’s Reservoir”, site of the valleys largest wild life refuge and reservoirs. This area enjoys a spectacular view of the Mission Mountains to the East with the Reservoir to the West of Hwy 93; a great place for bird watching; ducks, geese, egrets, cranes and other wetlands fowl, as well as pheasants, etc.
Continuing North on Hwy 93 brings us to Ronan, a charming small town that besides the normal conveniences, (we have a great 40 acre Mission Mountain View site for sale) boasts a great golf course and a plum-full sporting goods store. Mission Mountain Country Club is open to the public and provides 18 holes of golf with a 360’ view.
Continuing west we follow Hwy 93 to the top of a small rise, and again we are dumbfounded by the sheer beauty of the view ahead. It is Flathead Lake in all of its’ glory (188 sq. miles and the largest fresh water Lake, west of the Mississippi). Here then is our next stop, Polson that lies on the shore of this magnificent lake. The Museum of America is a great time with many old-time treasures to enjoy; inside and outside. And then on into Polson and First things first, we ‘have-to’ stop at ‘Richwines Burgerville’ (a tradition, if you will, for over 30 years). We suggest a mouth watering Royal. We take them ‘to-go’ and head for the public docks and picnic area next to the Polson Country Club (public) down by the beautiful community Golf Course, and pull up a picnic bench next to Flathead Lake. What a better way to spend a few hours on a hot summer day, than to sit by the cool waters at the lake, listening to the waves lap, children playing and watching boaters with water skiers speed by. Polson is a charming town with many shops and all of the conveniences. (We are proud to be showcasing a beautifully landscaped Lakefront Home with Guest House, Dock and Shore Station just on the outskirts of Polson; easy year around access). Don’t forget to stop and buy some Flathead Cherries when they are in season (at the end of June and the first part of July) these wonderful sweet-tasting dark cherries are the absolute best!
Now we have a choice. We must decide whether to drive up the East Shore or up the West Shore of Flathead Lake. Rather than ‘flip’ a coin – we will attempt to show you both shores. A land of contrasts, the East & West Shores (up to 12 miles apart) both have groves of cherry orchards, but are otherwise very different from each other. The West Shore, while enjoying the view of the inspiring Mission Mountains (which lines the background of the East Shore) is not as forested as the ‘far shore’. The East Shore, at the base of the Mountains, with the lake tucked up against them, gets more moisture and is a carpet of trees – from pines and fir to apples & cherries. Their blooms in the spring, coincides with Polsons’ annual ‘Cherry Blossom Festival’ and is an event not to be missed. The fragrant blossoms, is just another added feature of the magnificent beauty of this part of Montana.
Across the lake, on the West Shore are the small communities of Big Arm, Elmo, Dayton (a good spot to embark to Wild Horse Island, and watch the lakes horizon for sailboat races), Rollins, Lakeside (there’s a great Brewery & Restaurant at the turn off to Montana’s Blacktail Mountain ski area; a family-friendly slope, with 24 groomed runs). A few miles past Lakeside is the small historic town of Somers. Get a great breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Somers Cafe & wonderful dinners at ‘Tiebuckers’.
The drive north – from either shore – winds around the lake, sometimes through forest and other times past grasslands – but always spectacular. Just past Big Arm, look for ‘The Chief’ rock formation, which locals have created stories about. He seems to stand out on a ledge – forever gazing out across the lake. And you may want to watch for the ‘turn-off’ to Lake Mary Ronan – a favorite fishing spot, in summer or winter.
As you come to the far end of the lake, you may wish to visit the quaint town of Bigfork. Wrapped around the Swan River’s mouth, where the ‘Swan’ and Flathead Lake meet, this little harbor town is home to the areas oldest theater, “The Bigfork Playhouse” with performances, all summer long. It’s winding Main Street, which crosses the river, is lined with small shops displaying artwork and crafts from the very talented local artisans and craftsmen. Bigfork also boasts a 27-hole golf course, of Jack Nicklaus design, at Eagle Bend. In fact, check-it-out, there are great golf courses in abundance throughout the Flathead Valley.
Kalispell, our next stop, boasts several courses along with all services, a small airport and a community college. This wonderful western town has seen much growth in the last few years and is now considered to be one of Western Montana’s larger cities. Its County fair in August, offers a rodeo, carnival, exhibits and they do it with a real western flair.
Our next stop is at Whitefish, which is known for two things, Whitefish Lake and the Big Mountain at Whitefish Mountain Resort, where skiers and snowboarders reign. It is one of Montana’s two destination ski areas (the other being Big Sky, near Bozeman) and provides night skiing as well. But during the day, the views are no less than spectacular and the runs provide skiable surfaces for beginners to pros. A definite ‘must do’ if you enjoy the sport. Summertime activities include: Zip Line Tours, Alpine Slide, A Walk in the Treetops, Mountain Biking, Hiking, and the most Scenic of Chairlift Rides.
Speaking of views ….we now come to the climax of this adventure, Glacier Park. Created in 1910, Glacier National Park provides over one million acres of habitat and protection for a wide variety of wildlife and wildflowers. Glacier National Park in North West Montana merges into Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada. In 1932, they were joined together by the governments of Canada and the United States as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, the first park of its kind in the world. Both parks have been designated Biosphere Reserves. Sculpting by massive bodies of ice has transformed this area into a dramatic example of glacial landforms. Today several alpine glaciers dot the mountains. The grandeur and majesty of the glaciated peaks and valleys is unmatched, anywhere.
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a spectacular 52-mile highway through Glacier National Park and follows the shores of the park’s two largest lakes and hugs the cliffs below the Continental Divide as it traverses Logan Pass and the ‘Garden Wall’. Aptly named, Going-to-the Sun, traveling on this road is an experience to remember. Glacier National Park offers a wide variety of recreational activities. Camping, hiking, boating, fishing, and sightseeing are just a few. By now you are glad that you brought your camera, hope you also brought plenty of film, because Glacier is a photographer’s paradise with absolutely spectacular views. Opportunities for wildlife viewing abound, as Glacier is home to many species of wildlife including bighorn, mountain goats, wolverine, ptarmigan, golden eagles, black bears, and the grizzly bear.
Glacier is the most ‘awesome’ of National Parks. The overwhelming size of its panoramic views will astound you in ways that is much too hard to describe. Although open year-round, long cold winters usually means more visitors in the months of June, July, August and September. Many visitors are increasingly finding the “off season” (fall, winter and spring) a rewarding time to visit. Less crowded conditions and increased opportunities for wildlife sightings are just a few of the benefits of a visit during the other months of the year. But access to all roads and areas may be limited. Glacier National Park is open year-round, 24 hours per day. Most park services and facilities are available from late May through September. Historic lodges preserve the ambience of nineteenth century travel for twentieth century visitors. In late fall, winter, and spring very limited services are available in the park. Surrounding communities provide complete services year-round. Historic lodges preserve the ambience of nineteenth century travel for twentieth century visitors.
Glacier’s weather is as varied as its landscape. In the valleys daytime temperatures can exceed 90 degrees F. Up slope, in areas above the ‘treeline’, it is frequently 10 to 15 degrees cooler. Strong winds predominate on the east side of the park. Overnight lows throughout the park can drop to near 20 degrees F, and snow can fall anytime. In August of 1992, a foot of snow fell on the northeastern corner of Glacier. Prepare for a variety of weather conditions and pack accordingly. You may start the day in a T-shirt and shorts and need a parka by evening. Dress in layers. Summer rainfall averages around two to three inches per month.
Remember if you encounter wildlife, to respect their boundaries and stay a safe distance away. They are not tame animals. You may wish to learn about our wildlife before coming to the ‘back-country’ of Montana. Co-existing with our States wonderful abundance of wildlife is managed through knowledge and respect for these creatures.
If you wish to stay in ‘The Park’ you may want to book your reservations early for summer months. And, leave plenty of time available for your travels.
As you can see, Glacier National Park is a ‘BIG’ park, just like Montana is a ‘BIG’ State. The sites you may wish to visit could be hundreds of miles apart. We suggest you plan accordingly and make sure you allow enough time to see and enjoy all of the varied sites that Western Montana has to offer.
Our companies, Stelling and Associates and Stelling Ranch and Land have been in existence for over 30 years and Both offer properties in all of the areas we have discussed and areas beyond; we are very familiar with all of these locations as, over the years, we have had listings in most all of these diverse places. We are always happy to be of assistance locating properties for our clients. Each of our 10 Sales Associates brings their own wonderful skills & abilities to our office. Some are ranchers or fishermen or former business owners. Some are hunters, skiers and U of M graduates. Some run ATV’s, or RV’s or Sea Ray’s. But we all have the same thing in common, we love our phenomenal State and we are very grateful to be able to live here, raise our families here, to enjoy the outdoors and the beauty of Montana; every day. Whether you are looking for a home with acreage, a ranch, waterfront, a commercial or business opportunity, land or a true recreational property, we service an area from “DeBorgia” to “White Sulphur Springs” and from “Sula” to “Libby” and everywhere in between & beyond. Our team endeavors to provide you with the best properties and personal service, to assist you in finding that ‘just right’ Montana property for you.
WE DO respond to our emails and clients requests as quickly as possible (but please remember that sometimes computers DO make mistakes i.e.: lost emails, wrong addresses or numbers, viruses, crashes, etc. so if we do not respond in a timely fashion, please call us or try us again).
We hope you have enjoyed your ‘black & white’ trip to our colorful area. Thanks for visiting our Stelling & Associates site and our sister company Stelling Ranch & Land’s site, we hope you found your time with us, well spent. And we hope to see you in Montana soon.
Till then Best Wishes!!