Located directly south of Kalispell and encompassing the southern half of Flathead Lake is the Flathead Indian Reservation. This area has been inhabited for thousands of years and today is home to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes. With 1.3 million acres, the reservation is made up of diverse landscapes, including the Jocko Valley and the Bison Range. There are also numerous communities – like Polson, Ronan, Charlo and St. Ignatius, to name a few – on the reservation.
Today, the Bison Range and its 18,500 acres are managed by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes. Open year-round, it offers expansive views of the valleys below and is home to around 350 – 500 bison, as well as deer, elk, bighorn sheep, bears, mountain lions, pronghorn antelopes and birds. Visitors can see its landscapes – and wildlife – on three scenic drives, including Prairie Drive, West Loop and Red Sleep Mountain Drive, which is open seasonally. Additional birding opportunities can be found nearby at Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge.
POINTS OF INTEREST
One of the best ways to learn about the culture of the tribes is by attending a powwow, like the Arlee Fourth of July Celebration and Standing Arrow Powwow
Garden of One Thousand Buddhas
Located in Arlee, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is a must-see in the Jocko Valley. It’s open to the public and visitors can take self-guided walks through the garden.
Museums and Cultural Centers
There are several places that are ideal for learning more about the history of the area, including the Miracle of America Museum in Polson and the St. Ignatius Mission in St. Ignatius. No visit is complete without stopping at the Three Chiefs Cultural Center, also located in Ronan, where you can learn more about the tribes.
Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam
Located at the southern end of Flathead Lake, the dam and its viewing platforms are a beautiful place to take in the view of the lake and the rising mountains. If you visit during spring, you’ll see many – if not most – of the gates open as water rocks through on its way downstream.
Glacier National Park’s Native America Speaks Program
Held each summer, the Native America Speaks Program is held at various locations in Glacier National Park. The program features tribal members from the Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai and Pend d’Oreille tribes. Learn more and listen to pre-recorded talks.
There are several lakes, rivers and streams on the Flathead Indian Reservation, with the Flathead River and Flathead Lake being the most popular destinations. The largest natural freshwater lake in the West, Flathead Lake is perfect for kayaking, boating, sailing and fishing. Be sure to purchase a tribal permit prior to recreating on the reservation.
How To Get There
Drive south on U.S. Highway 93 from Kalispell along the west shore of Flathead Lake.