Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce - Seeley Lake
Seeley Lake is the regional center of a large multi-valley area offering abundant recreational opportunities. The appeal of Seeley Lake rests in its bountiful natural amenities like mountains, forests, lakes, streams, and starry nights. Seeley Lake is nestled between the Bob Marshall and the Mission Mountain Wilderness areas. State, federal and timber company lands also surround us.
Seeley Lake is a town of about 1,700 people that has grown up around a glacially formed lake. Seeley Lake is a full-service town. It is home to a locally owned grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, sporting goods store, video rentals, auto repair shops, gas stations and recreation/sport rentals, guided services and more. Eight churches will welcome you and there are available health services. Seeley Lake and the surrounding communities have multiple lodges, motels, guest ranches, conference facilities and restaurants. Seeley Lake is one-hour northeast of an international airport located in Missoula.
Folks in Montana refer to this region as the Seeley-Swan Valley. This main valley is 80-miles long and Highway 83 connects its small, rural communities. Highway 83 connects to Highway 200 on the south end and Highway 35 is on the north end. The Clearwater River flows south through a glacially formed chain of lakes and into the Blackfoot River. Seeley Lake is one of these lakes. The Swan River flows north through Swan Lake to the Flathead River.
Seeley-Swan Country is Mountain Country. Seeley Lake and Condon lie in the valley bottoms (4,000 and 3,400 feet in elevation respectively) of the Clearwater and Swan Rivers, and to the visitor, everything is up from here! Close to National Forest land (including the Bob Marshall and Mission Mountain Wilderness Areas), these small communities provide ample opportunity for diverse four-season recreation such as hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, photography, hunting and fishing, birding, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.
Lake Country. If boating, swimming or camping is your pleasure, explore the 'Chain of Lakes' along Highway 83 between Clearwater Junction and Big Fork. These include Harper's Lake, Salmon Lake, and Placid Lake just north of the Clearwater Junction; Seeley Lake, Lake Inez, Lake Alva, and Rainey Lake between Seeley Lake and Swan-Clearwater Divide; Summit Lake (on the divide); Holland Lake (about 20 miles north of Seeley lake) and Swan Lake in the Swan Valley. Dozens of other lakes may be accessed by Forest Service roads and trails.
Snow Country. Average snow 'on the ground' measures about three feet at Seeley Lake during the peak of the winter season. With a new Nordic Ski Trail System at Seeley Lake and more than 300 + miles of groomed snowmobile trails, the Seeley-Swan offers great winter recreation opportunities from December through March. Local residents celebrate with winter carnivals, dog sled races, and family activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.
Folks visiting Seeley Lake have many outdoor recreational opportunities from which to choose. During winter, a snowmobiler will discover more than 300 + miles of groomed snowmobile trails in this area. Seeley Lake hosts a vast network of trails that wind in and around the many local mountain ranges. Guided snowmobile tours are available. Seeley Lake also boasts a world-class Nordic ski trail system. Folks can enjoy the serenity and beauty of this winter wonderland on a horse-drawn sleigh ride or on a guided sled dog ride. Seeley Lake is home to local mushers Bill, Cindy and Jim Gallea (father, mother, and son respectively). They are the first family to enter and finish the Iditarod on separate years. Other winter recreation includes snowboarding, sleigh riding, snowshoeing, ice fishing, spear fishing and ice-skating.
During spring, summer and autumn, folks can enjoy birding, wildlife viewing, fishing, camping, boating, hiking, backpacking, horseback riding and trap shooting. Folks can mountain bike along hundreds of miles of trails and roads. You can also canoe the Clearwater River Canoe Trail. This easy 3.5-mile canoe route along the willow-lined river provides excellent opportunities to see many types of birds, including Bald Eagle. Experience the mountain vistas with a scenic car ride or with a guided horse pack trip. During hunting season, there are multiple outfitters for guided pack trips. During summer, there are many water sports to be enjoyed.
There are three Forest Service Campgrounds on Seeley Lake with swimming areas. There is also a campground on Lake Alva. All of these campgrounds have day use areas and provide excellent recreation facilities and opportunities. Interpretive specialists hold educational programs during the summer. These programs are open to the public.
When visiting Seeley Lake, you will find your experiences unique. To highlight our community spirit and the many recreational opportunities of each season, we host three annual community events. We welcome visitors to share in the activities, games and celebration.
We call Seeley Lake's annual celebration of winter 'Winterfest.' It is held the last 2 weekends in January of each year and is Montana's premier winter recreation event. During Winterfest we have clinics for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. Local mushers give free sled dog rides. Cash prizes are awarded in a snow sculpture competition. We have kick Winterfest off with a night parade, followed by a bonfire of Christmas trees. We have a businessperson's Calcutta with dog sleds, kid-mutt pulls, and snowmobile kid games. Our local snowmobile club sponsors both a Fun Run and sanctioned Snocross races. Our local Nordic ski club sponsors a cross-country ski race (OSCR: Over Seeley's Creeks and Ridges). The Seeley-Lincoln 100 - 200 mile sled dog race starts and finishes in downtown Seeley Lake making this event spectator friendly. In February, the 350-mile Race to the Sky sled dog race has a checkpoint in Seeley Lake allowing spectator viewing.
During Memorial Day Weekend in May, Seeley Lake hosts its annual celebration of area wildlife with the Loon & Fish Festival. US Forest Service interpretive specialists lead tours and have programs focusing on area plants and wildlife. A major focus is on Seeley Lake nesting loons and bird viewing. There are kid's arts and crafts projects. We celebrate this area's artistic talent with two-day arts and craft fair sponsored by Alpine Artisans.
Seeley Lake hosts a 4th of July celebration complete with a state renowned parade and a spectacular fireworks show over the lake. During 4th of July we have highly competitive (rubber) Duck Races for prizes. No matter what, it is always a fun 4th of July Celebration. And as with all of our events, we invite visitors to join in the fun.
Celebrate autumn in the Seeley Lake area with our golden tamarack trees the last weekend in Sept. Bask in the picture-postcard beauty of our valley throughout the season. Enjoy the following special weekend events: On Saturday and Sunday, the Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring their annual Tamarack Festival: a celebration of trees with a craftsmen & fine arts fair. Events both days: arts & crafts fair, food booths, & a kid's town (at the One Stop), along with a quilt sale (at the community hall). The local YMCA puts on a 1k & 5k fun run as well as a couple bike rides (easy and difficult). There is a nature walk among the tamarack trees. On Saturday: a jackpot fun horseback ride beginning at 10 am. The Horseshoe Hills Ranch sponsors the event. Contact number is: 406-677-2276. This event is followed by a potluck Bar-B-Que.
The Seeley Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and the Seeley Lake Ranger Station are both good sources of information. Along with others who live in the Seeley Lake area, we invite you visit, explore and enjoy our small town atmosphere nestled in this beautiful mountain valley.
Prior to settlement by European Americans, Native American people, primarily Salish and occasionally Blackfeet, populated the Seeley Lake area.
The beginning of European settlement in this area was by Jasper B. and Elmer Seely in 1881. (The modern day spelling of Seeley Lake was due to a misspelling of Mr. Seely's name). They had a contract to furnish ties for the Northern Pacific Railroad. William Dilts, a fisherman, settled at Big Sky Lake.
These homesteaders made their living from timber and fur. Surveying began in the area in 1883, six years before Montana became a state. Settlers purchased inexpensive land deemed unfit for agriculture, often selling it later to timber companies. The first logging near Seeley Lake took place in 1892. In 1896 J.B. Seeley was the first ranger at the Lewis and Clark Forest Reserve now the Seeley Lake Ranger District, part of Lolo National Forest). In 1896, the Forest Service offered the first timber sale at Seeley Lake. The Big Blackfoot Logging Company purchased it.
World War II increased demand for lumber and another round of sawmill operations began. The demand for lumber continued after the war and so did the timber industry in Seeley Lake. The logging switched from horse teams and river drives to sawyer, trucking and logging roads.
The Forest Service began to put the logging roads to broader use by encouraging recreational activity in the area. In 1915 the Forest Service started leasing lots around Seeley Lake that were acquired by families from Missoula and other cities around Montana. The Maclean family was one of these. Reverend Maclean raised two sons, one of who, Norman, later wrote about family and fishing the Big Blackfoot River. By 1926 there were 35 summer cottages on Seeley Lake.
The semi-remote location of the Seeley Lake area combined with the abundance of fish, game and large tracts of undeveloped wild country encouraged the development of Seeley Lake as a resort community. As the timber and tourism industries grew, more people were attracted to the Seeley Lake area. A school, a bridge, telephone services, a small store, a post office, and a dance hall came with development.
Experiencing the history of Seeley Lake and the surrounding area is possible at the Seeley Lake Historical Museum and Visitor Center located in a historic barn at the edge of an 18-hole golf course. Used for many years by a local outfitter guide, the barn was dismantled log by log, moved and reassembled in its current location. It was a 7-year project completed with grants and a lot of community volunteer labor to convert the barn to the present impressive museum and visitor center. The area abounds in recreational opportunities year-round. Logging remains the primary industry of the area. The historic and cultural resources of the Seeley Lake area contribute greatly to what makes this place special.