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Living Here

This is Bigfork

Surrounded by mountains and forest, Bigfork hugs the shore Bigfork Bay on Flathead Lake. Formed millions of years ago by glacial action, the clear, cold waters of the lake offer hundreds of acres of watery playground and provide the perfect climate for growing the famous Flathead Cherries.

Bigfork is known for fine art, fine dining and great theatre. Its world-class art galleries are the reason that the community was designated as “One of the 100 Best Small Art Towns in the West.” The Bigfork Summer Playhouse has been recognized for more than 50 years as one of the northwest’s finest repertory theaters. Bigfork’s restaurants offer menus that range from gourmet dining to casual burgers and brats with a view of the lake. And accommodations include everything from cozy B&B’s to lodges and resorts.

Bigfork is the perfect location for those who love the outdoors. Right in our backyard is the nearly 28 mile long, deep, cool water of Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi.  The 188 square miles of pristine water, tree lined shores and boundless wildlife habitat offer endless opportunity for watercraft recreation and year-round fishing for trophy sized trout, yellow perch and whitefish.

Many other outdoor recreation areas are also within our reach.  Glacier National Park (open year-round), with its wildlife and the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road, is less than an hour away. Jewel Basin Hiking Area in the Flathead National Forest is home to more than 15,000 acres for backcountry hiking, camping and fishing. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, one of the most completely preserved mountain ecosystems in the world with over one million protected acres, is only a short drive away.  Bigfork’s Eagle Bend Golf Course provides 27 holes of sculpted fairways, excellent greens and magnificent views.  In the winter months, Whitefish Mountain Resort to the north and Blacktail Ski Area on the lake’s west shore offer excellent downhill and snowboarding opportunities, as well as many groomed cross country ski trails and snowmobiling areas. 

Throughout the year, Bigfork is alive with activity. Every season brings special events including the Bigfork Brewfest in March; the Whitewater Festival and Kayak Races Memorial Day Weekend; the Bigfork Summer Playhouse; the Riverbend Concert Series, weekly outdoor live music performances all summer long; the Rumble in the Bay Classic Car Show, held Labor Day Sunday; the Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival; the famous Bigfork Festival of the Arts; Tamarack Time, our fall celebration where residents serve homemade food along Electric Avenue for sampling and judging; and an old-fashioned Christmas in Bigfork where the entire town is decorated by “Elves” with fresh-cut garland and lights and a giant Christmas Tree is displayed downtown. Click on our event calendar to learn more about what’s happening in Bigfork.

A Bit of History

What is now Bigfork was once a gathering place for the native tribes who camped by the lake to take advantage of the abundant natural resources of the area. The town became “Bigfork” in 1901 when it was officially platted by Everit L. Sliter who arrived two years before. By the time he began to develop the town, Sliter had purchased land, bought and sold the trading post and built a 14-bedroom house where he began to rent rooms. The original description of the town said that it was “nothing more than cut over stump land.” Sliter purchased a stump puller and began to work. That same year, the Post Office was established with Sliter as the first postmaster.

Even before it was officially a town, Bigfork boasted a power plant (built in 1889) which gave its name to the town’s main street, Electric Avenue. With no roads around the lake, Flathead Lake itself was an important waterway for trade. Goods that arrived on the railroad in Missoula were loaded first onto wagons and driven to Polson to be loaded onto steamers for the trip north. It wasn’t until June 1914 that the east shore road (Highway 35) was completed and trucks and automobiles could finally drive around Flathead Lake.

During the early days of Bigfork, logging was a major industry. Logs cut from around Swan Lake were floated down that lake to the Swan River and then down the river to boom at Bigfork in a quiet part of the river near today’s Swan River Nature Trail. It is said that the name Bigfork was given to the town because of the Swan River being a "big fork" within the Flathead River system.  From Bigfork many of the logs made their way across the lake to Somers where they were cut into thousands of ties for the railroad. The rest of the logs were used in construction throughout the Flathead Valley.

From farming and timber, the economy of Bigfork has changed into a community known for art, fine food and theater, but there are still many reminders of the old days and the old ways. As you stroll through the galleries and shops, pick up a copy of Paces to the Past to learn more about early Bigfork.

Climate

For an area so far north, the climate of Bigfork and the Flathead Valley is surprisingly mild because the surrounding mountains and waters of Flathead Lake provide protection from harsher climates to the east and west. Weather-watchers discover a moderately dry summer and autumn and a moderately wetter winter and spring. Annual precipitation in the Flathead Valley averages 20.27 inches of rain and 49.0 inches of snow. In the mountains, precipitation can average up to 100 inches of snow on the higher peaks.

Elevations in the Flathead Valley range from just above 3000 feet above sea level on the valley floor to the higher mountain peaks at 10,000 feet.

Bigfork is at an altitude of 2900 and in the Rocky Mountains. Be prepared for any type of weather all year long. The most constant thing about our weather is that it's unpredictable. However, here are some average daily temperatures for you:

 

Month Daily High Daily Low
January 27 11
February 34 16
March 41 20
April 54 30
May 64 38
June 72 44
July 82 48
August 80 46
September 70 39
October 56 31
November 39 23
December 32 18

 

Real Estate

The Flathead Valley continues to be magnet for families, businesses and investors.  People want to live here. Where else can one live and enjoy all of the recreational activities and unparalleled beauty of NW Montana?  More than 80 percent of Flathead County’s two million acres are protected as national parks, federal and state forests and private timber reserves.

It’s all about quality of life.  With Glacier Park, Flathead Lake and the Bob Marshall Wilderness rubbing shoulders in Northwest Montana, Bigfork and the surrounding valley is an outdoor paradise. And it’s an affordable place to live.

Real estate remains a solid investment in NW Montana – it’s a limited commodity and everyone wants a slice of Heaven.  Natives, newcomers, investors and speculators are taking advantage of great interest rates and lower real property prices to buy their piece of the Last Best Place! 

Purchasing your home in the Flathead is affordable.  The median price for residences located in each of the following towns in 2015 was:

Kalispell:  $192,600

Whitefish:  $248,000

Columbia Falls:  $185,900

Bigfork:  $241,200

Polson:  $182,200

Eureka:  $187,400

For many reasons – unsurpassed beauty, affordable living, and a healthy lifestyle – Northwest Montana has become one of the most desirable areas of the country.  And the Flathead is a premier national hotspot for families to relocate and businesses to build and expand. 

To search the Kalispell market (and entire Northwest Montana area) visit the local Realtor Association Multiple Listing Service at: http://www.nmar.com/find-a-property

Or, download the HomeSnap app on your mobile device and search the entire MLS database.

 

Source: Northwest Montana Association of REALTORS® MLS, Inc.

Demographics

  • Bigfork 2014 Population - 1,533 (Summer approx. 5,000)
  • Flathead County Population 2014 -94,924
  • Flathead County Growth 2010-2014 - 4.4%
  • Elevation: 2900'
  • Summer (July-Aug) Average High Temperature: 81F
  • Winter (Nov-Feb) Average High Temperature: 35F
  • Average Annual Rainfall -19"
  • Average Annual Snowfall: 65"
  • Average Growing Season: 129 Days

Sources: US Census and weatherbase.com

Schools

  • Bigfork Elementary & Middle School (K-8)
  • Swan River School (K-8)
  • Bigfork High School (approx. 300 students)
  • Bigfork School District Office- 406-837-7400
  • Flathead Valley Community College, Kalispell, MT- 20 miles north of Bigfork, 406-756-3912
  • Bigfork Public Library - located at the Bigfork Art and Cultural Center

Public Safety

  • Bigfork Volunteer Fire Department - 406-837-4350
  • Flathead County Sheriff - 406-758-5585

Medical Care

  • Kalispell Regional Medical Center - 20 miles north of Bigfork
  • North Valley Hospital, Whitefish, MT, 35 miles north of Bigfork
  • Bigfork Quick Response Unit - dial 911
  • Bigfork has local doctors, dentists, chiropractors, and an optometrist.

Taxes

  • Property Taxes- about 1.3%
  • State Income Tax- 11%, Effective rate of 7%
  • No State Sales Tax
  • Median Home Price in Bigfork- $ 241,200, Average Price in 2004- $252,000

Parks

  • Sliter’s Park
  • Carlyle Johnson
  • Wayfarer's State Park
  • Jewel Basin Hiking Area
  • Swan River Nature Trail
  • Bigfork Public Tennis Courts (4) Hardcourt

Lakes & Rivers with Public Access

  • Flathead Lake
  • Swan Lake
  • Echo Lake
  • Swan River
  • Flathead River

Top State Industry

  • Agriculture
  • Tourism (#1 in Bigfork)

 

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