Skip to content

All posts by Tess M

The Timeless Georgetown Lake


As a mountain lake lover, you need to experience Georgetown Lake if only for the memory. Of course, take into consideration this lake is one of Montana’s premier blue ribbon fisheries pulling out the Kokanee Salmon and Rainbow Trout. Angling in this nestled Pintler Mountain escape is still a secret for outsiders, and don’t expect locals to share the prime fishing nooks. This is a trophy lake ranked among one of the top 10 fishing destinations.
Georgetown Lake is stocked each year with self-sustaining populations of trout making their home in the relatively shallow waters. The habitat has two main types of rainbow trout, the Arlee and the Eagle River strain. On any given day you can easily reel in a trout close to 14 inches. Rainbow in Georgetown Lake can get over 10 pounds and a 5 pound fish is not uncommon here. The lake also boasts of Brook trout growing as large as 6 pounds, with the average being around 2 pounds. Between April and June is a great time to witness the large Rainbow Trout spawning along the shore by the hundreds. You are not allowed to fish the shores during this time of year, but it is fascinating to watch. There is a good chance of catching Longnose Suckers, common Redside Shiners, and even the rare WestSlope Cutthroat.

The short drive from Georgetown Lake to North Fork Flint creek is breathtaking, and leads you to another tributary stream which is also excellent fishing territory. In the opposite direction, heading towards Anaconda, is Silver Lake, an oddly out of place lake which has never seen the addition of houses or a recreational population. This mountain lake has some legendary 20 pound lake trout, but they are hard to catch. FishingGeorgetown_t470
Georgetown Lake is loved for scenery, like a place time forgot. As its beauty is gaining more attention, the landscape is slowly changing from decades old homes into sprawling vacation mansions. Access to the lake remains good, with some of the best fishing being right off the side of the road near the pump house and Grassy Point. Denton’s point is a destination for all types of recreational activities. This lake is fished in the winter with ice houses popping up everywhere.
Night Crawlers, maggots and power bait are the top choices for fishing here. The preferred fishing method is to cast out and sit. Fly-fishing is popular and rewarding at Georgetown Lake. The lake is shallow, averaging around 16 feet in depth, which makes it superior fish habitat and the best fishing experience.
There are two ways to get up to Georgetown Lake. Both are off the I-90 exit. If you are coming from Butte, the Anaconda exit and drive through town will put you on the right road to Georgetown. From Anaconda it is around 14 miles to the lake, but the drive is absolutely amazing. The Mt. Haggin Peak is worth the drive alone, so get your camera ready. Another way to get to Georgetown Lake is the Philipsburg exit off I-90. This main road will bypass the outside of Philipsburg leading you up the mountain pass and opening right into the beautiful lake.fishing2

Kenai Nature Trail: A Visual Day Hike


Nestled in the little town of Stevensville, Montana is a cool nature reserve called Lee Metcalf. The Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as a cover habitat for migratory birds. A series of impoundments and dikes were constructed for wildlife water management. Today, there are so many diverse habitats within the refuge. There are 37 species of mammals, 17 species of reptiles and over 235 different species of migratory birds. The Kenai Nature Trail is a lovely day hike of around 2.5 miles round trip, approximately a 1.5 hour day hike on level ground. The trail begins at the visitor center and heads north on a gravel trail through some riparian vegetation. Then as it opens, you will experience a chain of ponds and wetlands leading down a ways to the Bitterroot River. The reserve has benches and viewing platforms all during the hike. There are also photo blinds, and a spotting scope. In the ponds you will see muskrats, osprey, turtles, frogs, great blue herons, and bald eagles. Being in the Bitterroot valley, you are also privilege to take in the beautiful majestic Bitterroot Mountains and the rolling Sapphire Mountains (This whole area for miles and miles is loaded with hikes). As you walk along the path, you will cross over the ponds by wooden bridge into an observation blind on the edge of the pond.asas These bridges are scattered throughout the meandering hike. At any given moment, you may see the herds of elk and deer which flock the fields around there. These ponds are so interesting to stop and explore in. Children will want to seek out the little reptiles which have habitats in the ponds. As said, this is a family proactive activity, giving the little ones and even pets, room to move and play. Bring your picnic, binoculars, camera and fishing poles to one of the last best places. Newcomers will spend a lifetime discovering little gems like Lee Metcalf Refuge all throughout Montana State. While you are here, check out the little town of Stevensville. You will be surprised by the authentic Norman Rockwell feel of small town goodness. How to get there: Take highway 92 out of Missoula towards Stevensville. At the Stevensville turnoffs (Highway 269) take a left and continue only 1.3 mile towards Eastside Highway (Highway 203). Turns left, and go travel 0.2 miles to Wildfowl Lane. Turn left again. Drive 4 miles to the visitor center parking lot. If you are coming from Hamilton, then the Stevensville turnoff is approximately 19 miles north on Highway 93 going towards Missoula.

Giant Springs Heritage State Park


Along the Missouri river in a sleepy little town lies the world’s shortest river. Within Great Falls, Montana is a quaint and beautiful area known simply as Giant Springs to the locals. It is a photograph waiting to happen at every angle. The shortest river in the world runs into this sparkling, ominous pool of life in motion. It is a youthful moment as you cheer on a beaver, or watch tiny little creatures clamor around this multi colored rock formations reflecting back from the pools. A bridge offers up even a different view between water’s edges and rolling green park hills where families wander with their picnic goodies. Where you stand at this moment you will notice almost any activity is possible here. Fishing on the Missouri river is known to pull in some typical hauls, yet some strange ones too. The Missouri river is known for the hard- to- get sturgeon; as once even Jacques Cousteau tried. If you would rather just feed or watch fish, then the fish hatchery at the side entrance of Giant Springs Park welcomes you. Some of these fish have homed here for a long time, with their size and swiftness to grab a bite all in check. Giant Springs offers up some great history and information on both the park and the hatchery.
Perhaps you wish to bike or hike the area, this is optional use of Giant Springs. You will see many people biking and walking the numerous trails available. Pet owners love to let their dogs run the trails here. If you wish just to walk the ponds and picnic, there are some amazing picnic areas located right above the little ponds. gspark
Probably the most difficult thing about Giant Springs Park and Hatchery is finding it. Although Great Falls Montana isn’t a big town, unless you’re a local you won’t know the easy shortcuts to the park. Great Falls can be a confusing little town to navigate. Both roads leading into this thriving windy city will put you on 10th Ave. South. At the crossroad of 10th Ave. South and 32nd St. you will want to trek on down 32nd St. until you meet River Road. Take a right at this point. There will be a green sign to help you along the riverbank drive. This is the local’s directions. If you happen to go in the opposite direction and cross Smelter Avenue, it will throw you a left leading to a wonderful and fun duck pond called Gibson Park. This is an advisable ending to your time at Giant Springs Park. People love this enduring pond of geese, swans and ducks that walk right up to you for a treat. There is also music, food, sports, and activities happening here. The two parks experienced, make for a great memory of the Great Falls area. Families will talk for a long time after of their day.

Garnet Ghost Town




garnet1If your adventures bring you to Western Montana then on your must do list should be exploring Garnet Ghost Town. An isolated old gold mining town preserved beautifully in time and an intriguing homage to the past of the American West. Only 30 miles from Missoula, lives a remote, intact ghost town sheltered deep in the forest. Located on Wallace Creek road, the drive is twisty on a dirt road climbing to the elevation of 6000 feet. Upon arrival, you are frozen back in time from the moment you exit your car.
In 1895, people began to settle in this area to mine garnets. Garnet was named after the semi precious stone. One year later, an abundant gold discovery from the Nancy Hanks mine brought miners and their families from all over. It is said the Nancy Hanks mine produced $690,000 in gold and this gold fever pushed the boom town to build. In days, Garnet went from a few minors to over 1200 in the community. Life in Garnet brought wealth and wealth meant more building: 13 saloons, 4 hotels, 4 stores, a butcher shop, a doctor’s office, a school, and the Minor’s Union Hall. The Minor Union Hall doubled as a dance hall, boxing matches, and religious services. Garnet even sported a jail to help keep order from the wild saloons. Stagecoaches ran supplies and people between there to Missoula, Bearmouth, or Deer Lodge. People would arrive late to pick up their gold and stay at one of the hotels for 1 to 3 dollars. For poorer miners they would be given a small crawl space in the attic for a quarter.Mine-1900
By 1905, gold was going dry, leaving only 150 left in the community. In 1912, a raging fire and World War sent most away, despite a brief renewal of gold mining happening in the Great Depression of 1930.
Garnet is one of Montana’s best preserved and least visited ghost towns. Every year there is a festival called Garney Day which occurs at the end of June.
Preservation efforts went into effect in 1970 after looting began. Today the town is ran by BLM, open to public for tours in the summer months. Guided tours are available when staff is on site. Thirty buildings remain, including a log frame cabin, a store, a saloon, and the remains of the J.K. Wells hotel. There are also several miners’ cabins. A visitor’s center is located on site with historical books and gifts, as well as the self guided trails with interpretive signs.
For avid ghost hunters, check out Kelly’s saloon where many have reported laughter and the sound of music being heard.

a bustling town
a bustling town

Many of the buildings will force a chill knowing there is story to be told on each path which leads to it. Garnet Ghost town can be what each visitor expects to find. For some it is the history, others it is the beauty of this frozen- in- time town sitting like a picture in the remote mountains. And for those looking for chill down their spine it is the haunting. Garnet Ghost Town is a true non-commercialized American West experience.

Fish Creek State Park

Fish Creek Camping
Fish Creek Camping

From the Williams Peak lookout you can see clearly the amazing crystal clear blue pools of fish creek. This is a 5603 acre state park full of wildlife, picturesque scenery and an unbelievable amount of places to explore. This newer park is now considered to become the second largest State Park in Western Montana with Eastern Montana boasting of Makoshika State Park near Glendive as the biggest. Fish Creek State Park sits on a 41,000 acre parcel received from the U.S Forest Service and Plum Creek Timber Company as part of the Montana Legacy Project.
This mesmerizing area is popular with the fishing anglers and has a small existing campground. There are undesignated camping spots as well for the brave of heart. Located near Alberton, Fish Creek empties into the lower Clark Fork River. This is the native spawning habitat for cutthroat trout and bull trout. Fishing is just one of the many recreational activities here. The Alberton Gorge is famous for white water rafting. These rapids are famously known for its class III/IV white waters. The State park has been gradually opening up more opportunities for different recreational activities year round. In process is a new large, recreational vehicle park and plans of creating a hut-to-hut back country network. New trails have been opened up for motorized and non-motorized use. The park is so large; just about any recreational activity is available.fish2
Hiking in this park will put even the best to the test. Old growth forage and common black bears (even a grizzly) will put you in the center of a true Montana wilderness. Wildlife is in abundance and caution should be used when hiking uncharted areas. Aside from the relaxing moments of picnicking, seasonal gems pop up like huckleberry picking in late July. If the summer is not for you then Fish Creek State Park has plenty of winter activities. Snowshoeing, and cross country skiing just being a couple ideas.
Fish Creek State Park is in the infancy stages of development. Expansion of this pristine wilderness is in the works to include more outdoor recreation opportunities. Until then, come enjoy the existing amenities, and create your own personal adventure.
This park is open year round. A fire is not permitted, nor is smoking unless it is in your vehicle or a specifically designated area. Check the fire hazard signs, as Montana can be unusually dry during the summer seasons. Be sure to obtain the proper permits before questing off to the Fish Creek State Park wilderness.
Fish Creek State Park can be accessed by taking Interstate 90 towards Alberton to exit 66, turn South, then West on Fish Creek Road. The park is located 9 miles West of Alberton.

Granite Ghost Town State Park


East from the town of Philipsburg is the road to Granite. This narrow road climbs to 1,280 feet in elevation. The road is steep and winding, opening to the deserted camps. A vehicle with good clearance is recommended as the road can be considered a white knuckle ride. The park is scenic and worthy for the photographing of this historic area. The state park preserves the Granite Mine Superintendent’s house in the Historic American Buildings Survey along with the old miner’s union hall.
The history of this ghost town begins in 1865 with a man by the name of Hector Horton. He was the first prospector to find silver. In the fall of 1872 a man named Eli Holland claimed the mine and relocated it. This mine almost went undiscovered when a telegram from back east was delayed. The telegram ordered the miners to pull out of operations and leave the mine. And as the story goes, it was that final blast in which Granite was deemed the richest silver mine on earth to the eye -opening amount of $40,000,000.
1879 with Charles McLure who found a piece of high grade “ruby” silver ore in the Granite Mind shaft. His ambition and steadfastness made him move quickly to purchase a lease and option on the claim for 30,000 dollars. When Granite was in full bloom, it formed a modern community with a hospital and school as well as 18 saloons, a thriving brothel, churches and the Miner’s Union Hall. The streets were named and several homes existed for the prosperous inhabitants. Remnants of the old miner’s union hall remain, once reported to be the “Northwest’s Finest Dance Floor.” The famous building was a popular community center point for the community of Granite. On the second floor where the dancing began, so did vaudeville and melodramas. The auditorium packed a full house to entertainment. On the first floor the club had a pool parlor along with a library. The spirit of the town remains in the shell of the Old Miner’s Hall which can be seen in Granite Ghost Town. The third and second floors have collapsed, the roof is caved, and the first floor club and café are near the end.HPIM1841
Ranking eleventh in size of Montana Cities, Granite was part of Deer Lodge County until 1893 when Granite County was incorporated. Also in 1893, The Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed. Silver prices dropped down and the mine was closed on the morning of August 1, 1893. In a swift move, the majority of people left Granite leaving behind much of their worldly possessions. One year later Granite had a population of only 140 people.
The park is open from May to September. To access the ghost town, enter Philipsburg until a flashing light and stop sign appear (middle of Philipsburg). Take a right, drive past the railroad trestle and then go left. This dirt road will continue for a mile. The sign for the ghost town appears. Take a right. Granite Ghost Town State Park is approximately 4 miles from Philipsburg.

Ninepipe Day Hike

Each way you turn, a picture perfect moment.
Each way you turn, a picture perfect moment.

Montana is all about backpacking and hiking. It is on these paths and these mountains there is connection. We need the wandering, the exploration, and mostly the fresh air of freedom. Weekend pioneers realize the power of hiking and are always on the lookout for uncharted territories.
There is an exceptional day hike located in Northwest Montana near Ronan. The Ninepipe area lies on both sides of Highway 93 and 212, bordered by a few county roads. This Waterfowl Production and Wildlife Management area is 45 miles north of Missoula Montana. Signed parking spots are scattered, just walk in a bit and you will have arrived in the middle of some extremely scenic moments. There is an abundance of birds at all times and quite a variety of them. If you love bird watching, then prepare to see pelicans, eagles, grebes, coots, snow geese, hawks, owls and avocets. About 200 bird species have been recorded. Duck Road offers 2 miles of pothole ponds for viewing. The background setting is sensory perfection of the Mission Mountains. This grassland and wetland complex contains up to 800 glacial potholes and a 1,770 acre reservoir. In the winter, there is a superb population of raptors. A paved trail and access road lead into the depths of the wetlands. The trail is barrier free.
The Ninepipe Research Center is also situated in this valley in Western Montana. They center much research on owls and habitat. What makes this whole area so spectacular aside from the Wetlands hike, the 1,770 acre reservoir, the birds, and the Crisp Mission Mountains is… this is not all. This would seem to be enough for an avid outdoor lover. Yet surrounding the center is the Wildlife refuge. This is not a developed refuge, but a natural existing complex which homes Bison. For decades, these bison have free ranged here. Deer and elk also roam along the refuge, as does the occasional grizzly or black bear. The Ninepipe region is a fascinating place for those who deeply wish to fill their heads with nature’s best. The wildlife corridor disperses some of the best beasts and birds to be seen in Montana at one time. It is almost guaranteed you will be overcome at some point with elation due to the interaction between man and the wild. Take a camera.
Take the drive North of Missoula; look for the signs between St. Ignatius and Ronan. If you look to your right and see a gorgeous trail of jagged, reach-for-the-sky Mountains, you know in the right direction. On the east side of the reservoir off of Highway 93, and about three quarters of a mile in is the 212 junction. Begin here.
And when you are done hiking, take the long way home…head around the other side to the bison range. You will see them from the road, follow the sign. Now, this is Montana.turtles

Morrell Lake and Falls: Day Hikes in Seeley

morrellfalsIn Montana’s deep reservoir of riches, Seeley Lake is one of the favorites. Seeley Lake is located on the Western side of Montana in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. This popular destination offers endless recreational avenues. The reason for this location being so desired by all is because this area is called the Clearwater Chain-of-Lakes. Amazingly so is 24 lakes in Clearwater Valley. All are easily accessed aside off of Montana State Highway 83 with developed campgrounds in place.
Placid and Jocko Lake residing nearby, there are so many hiking spots circling around all three Lakes. One is particular, known to Montanan’s as the best day hike near Seeley is Morrell Lake and falls. This gentle hike is a 2.7 mile hikes through Lodge pole Pines, and by 23 acres of Morrell Lake finishing up at the historic series of Morrell Waterfalls. The beginning of the trail is flat through the lodge pole, and then the remainder of forest hike leaves way to a mixture of pine, larch, spruce and fir trees. Wildlife is abundant. Be prepared to see a variety of wildlife like beaver, elk, mountain lions, moose, bobcats, and deer. As in many Montana wildernesses, you also must be prepared for bears. This area is home to both black and grizzly bears. Before you even arrive at the falls, you will hear the roar of the water as the hikes winds around the marsh. Then in the clearing, the beauty of the 90 foot falls will unfold before you.
For the Morrell Falls day hike you have the option of walking, mountain biking or even horseback riding. Close to the trailhead is parking for vehicles, as well as undeveloped campsites for those wishing to make it an overnight trip. For those with an enduring spirit there are more difficult trails which branch off from the falls. Grizzly Basin Trail #509 climbs into the Swan Mountains along the east fork of Morrell Creek. This trail is not maintained and runs 6 miles long. Even a more primitive trail is Morrell Creek Trail #383 which takes off from Trail #30 and extends up the west fork of Morrell for 3.5 miles.
To get to this breathtaking hike, travel a half mile north of the town of Seeley staying on Highway 83; turn east (right) on Morrell Creek Road. There will be a green street sign. This becomes Forest Road #477 Cottonwood Lakes Road. After 1.1 miles, turn left on West Morrell Road #4353 for around 6 miles. Turn right on Pyramid Pass Road #4381, go less than .25 miles and take a left on Morrell Falls Road #4364. One more mile and you are at the trailhead! You will see the parking and camping area.

one with nature
one with nature

If you are new to the fun of the hike or wilderness exploration, this is the perfect place to begin. At every turn of this recreational area you will discover more and more to do. In a short time, you will understand why this part of Montana rules the heart.