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Bigfork, Montana Area Chamber of Commerce


Fall calendar full of activities in Bigfork

Bigfork streets are lined with colorful fall flags

BIGFORK, MT…Anchored by a new fall festival, the events calendar in Bigfork is full of activities ranging from races to craft fairs and fundraisers.  Bigfork’s new Chalk ‘n Rock Festival on September 20-21 will bring together visual artists and musicians with a two-day event that brings the ancient art of street painting to Electric Avenue.  The Festival will feature the creations of local and regional artists along with Featured Artist Lori Escalera and Guest Artist Bill Spiess. Festival sponsors include the Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce and its members, the Flathead Beacon and the Montana Office of Tourism.

September begins with two fundraisers.  The Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork (CFBB) will host its Annual Auction on Thursday, September 4 from 4 to 8 pm in the Garden Bar.  Art, trips, gift certificates and a wide array of goods and services will be available for bid. The Seventh Annual Brats, Burgers and Band fundraiser for the Bigfork Fire Department follows on Friday the 5th.  Held at the Harbor Village Pavilion, the day will include a barbecue sponsored by Flathead Bank of Bigfork.

The next weekend, the Dragon Boats will again skim across the waters of Flathead Lake.  The Montana Dragon Boat Festival is scheduled for September 13 and 14th at Flathead Lake Lodge. Visitors are asked to park at the designated parking lot at the junction of Highways 82 and 35. By taking the Montana Trolley loop, race observers will have an opportunity to visit downtown Bigfork on Saturday at any time from 10 am until 5 pm. The trolley will run continuously from the parking lot to the Lodge and back to the parking lot via downtown.

Also on Sunday, September 21, the Bigfork Athletics Golf Classic is scheduled for Eagle Bend Golf Course.  The golf classic is a fundraiser for Bigfork Schools athletic programs.  The goal is to provide a pool of funds to be used by all sports teams to meet needs that cannot be met by the school system or Booster Club. Registration is scheduled for 8:30 am with a shotgun start at 9:30 am.

October opens with the annual Watermedia 2014 at the Bigfork Museum of Art.  The show runs from October 3 through the end of the month and will feature the Montana Watercolor juried show of 50 artists from throughout the United States. Also during that weekend, the holiday craft shopping season gets underway with the Mountain Brook Quilt & Craft Market on October 3 and 4 and the Methodist Church Bazaar October 4.

On Saturday, October 11, Tamarack Time! joins with Oktoberfest for a day of celebration of all things Fall.  The day will feature food tastings, harvest decorations and entertainment.  There will be a chance to “make your own cider”, pumpkin carving face painting and the Raptors. Oktoberfest will take off as Tamarack Time! winds down.  A winter fashion show will be held at the Mountaineer and there will be the Pink Power miniature golf tournament and beer, brats and music to end the afternoon.


Celebrate the Fourth in Bigfork

BIGFORK, MT…Bigfork knows how to throw a party.  And when it’s our country’s birthday, Bigfork really knows how to celebrate.  Centerpiece of the celebration is the annual parade through Bigfork which begins at noon.  Voted the “Best Parade” in the Flathead Valley, the theme of this year’s parade will be “Celebrating America’s Heroes”. Co-Grand Marshalls will be Hal Curtiss and the members of Bigfork High School’s state championship basketball team. Music will once again be provided by the Community Band which is scheduled to begin playing in front of the Bigfork Inn at 11:30 a.m.

At approximately 12:05 pm, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion honor guard will present the colors in front of the Bigfork Inn and Robin Gough will sing the Star Spangled Banner. The parade will then continue down Electric Avenue to the bridge.

Later in the afternoon, yellow plastic ducks will take the place of kayaks on the Swan River’s Wild Mile as the Ducks for Bucks race gets underway. Many of Bigfork’s shops, galleries and restaurants will be open featuring specials for the day and weekend.

Entries for the parade are encouraged to register in advance and follow the theme of the parade.  Line-up will be on Grand Drive.  All entries must be in place by 11:15 a.m. when the streets will be closed to traffic. Judging of entries will take place during the parade and awards will be given at the Bigfork Fire Hall barbecue in the afternoon. For a registration form and a list of parade entry rules, visit

Other events on the Fourth include the 4th Annual Freedom 5K Run/Walk which will begin at 8:30 a.m. Registration for the event begins at 7:30 a.m.  The race course will start at Brookies Cookies on Mill Avenue, run along the Swan River Nature Trail and back to Brookies.  To register in advance, visit  There will be t-shirts for the first 100 registrants.

There will also be a free Pancake Breakfast at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. In addition to pancakes, the menu will feature sausage, eggs and orange juice. The church is located at 121 Crestview Drive.

An Old-Fashioned Holiday

Every November, community volunteers known as the Bigfork Elves head into the forest and to the local tree farms to cut fresh evergreen trees.  Others twist, test and turn more than ten thousand colored lights while nimble fingers tie hundreds of bright red bows.  It all comes together on the Saturday before Thanksgiving when the Elves gather to decorate Bigfork with fresh evergreen garlands and those trees, bows and lights.  Their efforts create a background for an old-fashioned Christmas celebration known for good food, great music, art and, of course, Santa Claus.

Starting with that first Saturday, every weekend contains activities inside and out.  There’s the Art Walk where visitors can stroll through galleries and shops before heading for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree.  But before the lights go on, there are candy canes for the kids, traditional carols and the traditional recitation of “The Night Before Christmas”.

The first weekend in December, Bigfork welcomes Santa with the annual Holiday Parade immediately followed by a “Touch of Christmas” in the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.  The Center also hosts performances of the Nutcracker and the Bigfork Summer Playhouse Children’s Theatre delights audiences with their version of “A Christmas Carol”.

When the snow falls, many take to the slopes for downhill skiing at Blacktail Mountain or Whitefish Mountain Resort. The Flathead National Forest welcomes cross-country skiers, and snowmobilers. For a slower pace, some venture out on snowshoes or a simple winter hike on the Swan River Nature Trail.  There’s skating on frozen ponds and ice fishermen hunker down over their favorite fishing hole.

Bigfork in the winter becomes a magical place where families and friends can enjoy their time together.  It’s no wonder that this village on Flathead Lake has become known as Montana’s Christmas Village.

Watchable Wildlife

Everyone expects to see some wildlife during a trip to Montana. Most visitors say they’d love to see a bear, a moose, deer or mountain goat. While we can’t guarantee that everyone will see a bear, we can promise that if you keep a good eye out, you’ll probably spot some our wilder residents.  That’s because Montana has a greater variety of wildlife than any other state in the lower 48. Surrounded by national parks, forests and protected lands, Bigfork is the perfect gateway to a wilderness area equal to the size of the state of Vermont. There’s no better place to watch and learn about the critters that are our neighbors.

Of course, when people think about seeing that bear or mountain goat, they first think of Glacier National Park. The Many Glacier area is known as one of the best places to spot a bear or bighorn sheep.  At Logan Pass, you can often spot mountain goats and sometimes the bighorn sheep. The hoary marmot chatters away while the bald eagle often soars overhead.  On the east side near the park, you might spot antelope on the prairie or a moose in one of the marshes.

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Watery Playground

Flathead Lake is 28 miles long and up to 15 miles wide with 128 miles of shoreline.  It’s big (the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi).  It’s beautiful!  And there’s a lot to see and do both on the water and along the shore!

The Swan River enters the lake at Bigfork where the whitewater attracts some of the nation’s best kayakers during the May’s Whitewater Festival.  Now, thanks to a weekly water release every Wednesday, kayakers can continue to enjoy the challenge of the river’s class IV Wild Mile throughout the summer.

Paddlers who prefer a quieter venue can follow the Flathead Lake marine trail. The “trail” is simply a network of access and stopover points for paddlers and sailors.  While you can traverse the lake in a day via kayak, canoe or sailboat, most choose to take several days to enjoy all that the lake has to offer.  Because this is a watery trail, you won’t find markers or signs, but you can pick up a map from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

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Swan River Nature Trail

Before it empties into mighty Flathead Lake, the final mile of the Swan River cascades over rocks and boulders, creating what is known as the “Wild Mile”.  Spring snowmelt creates class III and IV rapids for more than 200 kayakers who come to compete in May’s annual Whitewater Festival. And now, with a weekly release of water every Wednesday, whitewater enthusiasts can enjoy the Wild Mile throughout the summer.

But thanks to the Swan River Nature Trail, you don’t have to get soaking wet to enjoy the rushing water. By taking to the trail everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Swan River and its Wild Mile.  The trail begins near Grand Drive in Bigfork and follows an old road last that follows the river for about two miles to the Kearney Rapids Bridge. This is an easy trail enjoyed by hikers, bikers and horseback riders in the summer and on skis or snowshoes in the winter.

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Fishing, Floating and Family Fun

Crystal clear waters surrounded by towering mountains and forests. If they were located anywhere else, these would be destination lakes.  But because they are within just a few miles of our famous Flathead Lake, some smaller jewels are sometimes overlooked. They shouldn’t be.  Because these sparkling clear mountain lakes (and one reservoir) contain promises of pure watery delight.

Just south of Bigfork, Swan Lake is at the northern edge of an area often referred to as “Montana’s Lake Country”. Here the Swan River runs north from the Mission Mountains into the valley creating a delightful finger lake before it moves on, gathering speed before it tumbles into Flathead Lake at Bigfork. The lake created by this river is about 7 miles long and less than a mile wide. The clear waters are home to kokanee, rainbow trout, westslope cutthroat, bull trout, northern pike and yellow perch. In addition, the lake is perfect for boating, especially if you prefer a slow paddle in a canoe or kayaks. Water skiers and those who like the speed of a personal water craft will find that this is an uncrowded lake with plenty of room for any speed of craft.  Swan Lake Village and the Swan Lake Campground and Day Use Area with campsites, picnic tables, boat launch, roped off swimming area and a nature trail are tucked along the southern shore.

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River Fun Begins in Bigfork

The waters of the Flathead River rush south from Canada and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.  The Swan River flows north from the Mission Mountain Wilderness.  Together these icy glacial waters become Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. But before these clear waters transform themselves into one gigantic lake, there are miles of whitewater to raft, countless fish to catch, and wildlife large and to photograph and enjoy.

As the weather warms, the snow melts and finds its way into the rivers. This spring runoff means whitewater.  And nowhere is this more apparent than on the “Wild Mile” of the Swan River where kayakers take up the annual challenge of Class IV rapids during the races of the Whitewater Festival.  But the fun doesn’t stop once the races are over.  There are always challenging rapids on this section of the Swan, due in part to a weekly water release every Wednesday. From Swan Lake to the dam that helps create the Wild Mile, the river follows a slower pace.  Canoes, kayaks and drift boats are popular as the river twists and turns through forests, fields and farms.

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Powerful Recreation

Shaded picnic tables with grills and fire pits.  Huge rocks overlooking the Swan River where hikers can rest and take in the view.  Rushing white water, perfect for kayakers. Gently flowing waters that draw fishermen.  Wildflowers in spring.  Chokecherries in summer. Hiking and walking trails along the river. All these things can be found just outside of Bigfork.  And they all came about because of a dam and a power plant.

Back in 1902, Bigfork’s first hydroelectric plant began operations, powering Bigfork and giving the name Electric Avenue to one of the town’s main streets. And through the years, the Bigfork Hydroelectric Project has done more than produce power. The land along the Swan River adjacent to these facilities provides shelter for wildlife and provides recreational opportunities for the public. And thanks to a 2003 agreement with Pacific Power Corporation, there are 480 acres that adjoin the project that are designated for public use.

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Play a Round at Eagle Bend

According to Golf Digest, Montana’s Flathead Valley is ranked as one of the top 50 golf destinations in the world.  And that same publication has listed Bigfork’s Eagle Bend Golf Club as #1 in Montana for six consecutive years. Add in spectacular views of Flathead Lake and the surrounding mountains and a round of golf just doesn’t get much better than this.

Eagle Bend is a semi-private golf course located on the north shore of Flathead Lake, less than a mile from the heart of Bigfork.  The first 18 holes of this championship golf course were designed by William Hull and Nicklaus Design completed the “Nicklaus Nine” in 1995.  The result is 27 holes of sculpted fairways, excellent greens and magnificent views that continue to  receive accolades from pros and duffers alike.

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