Travel guide for Flathead Lake Montana, including discounted hotel rates, activity suggestions & the story of the lake monster Flessie

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Vacation At Flathead Lake In Montana

Thousands of years ago, glaciers pushed their way down into Flathead Valley and sculpted Flathead Lake.  Situated in northwest Montana, it lies at the base of the Swan and Mission mountain ranges.  With over 200 square miles of water and 185 miles of shoreline, Flathead Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River in the lower 48 states.  

Flathead Lake’s beauty is breathtaking.  The clarity of the lake waters is renowned.  In the summer, you can often see through 20 feet of water.  The lake is low in nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen which promote the growth of algae.  Its water quality is among the best in the world.

Vacation Activities

Flatland Lake is one of the premier recreational and fishing lakes in Montana.  Recreation on and around the lake includes power boating, water skiing, sailing, tubing, canoeing, kayaking, picnicking, parasailing and more.

Most of the lake’s shoreline is rocky, not sandy, but Yellow Bay has a wide gravelly beach when you can swim, sunbathe, fish, scuba dive, and more.  Bird watching is popular here.  On the eastern shore of Flathead Lake, Yellow Bay State Park has 15 acres at an elevation of 2,907 feet.  

Anglers come to Flathead Lake in search of trout, pike, yellow perch, whitefish, rainbow trout, bass, salmon, and bull trout.  The lake trout average 3 to 8 pounds but there are some huge trout here weighing over 20 pounds.

There are many islands in Flathead Lake with Wild Horse Island being the biggest at 2,164 acre.  The Salish-Kootenai tribes used to pasture their horses on the island to keep them from being stolen.  The Wild Horse Island State Park allows day use only on the island.

Rare and endangered plants species can be found here.  Wildlife on the island includes bighorn sheep, mule deer, waterfowl, falcons, bald eagles, and 5 wild horses.  Its scenic shoreline attracts swimmers, hikers, boaters, nature lovers, and sailboat enthusiasts.  The island can only be reached by boat.

Lake Monster

If you visit Flathead Lake, you’re sure to hear tales about the lake monster.  Native American Kootenai legend had 2 girls from the tribe seeing antlers in the ice.  When they tried to take the antlers, the monster and half of the tribe drowned in the lake.  

The first recorded report of the monster came from Captain James Kerr in 1889.  He was the captain of the U.S. Grant steamboat.  Captain Kerr and 100 passengers saw an unusually large whale-like object in the water.  One of the passengers shot at the creature and it dived to safety.  

Locals call the monster Flessie.  There are usually one or two sightings a year, although in 1993 there were 13 reports of sightings.  It should be noted that 80% of the sightings were seen by several people.  

Flessie is described as a large eel-shaped creature, between 20 to 40 feet long with a wavy body, having brownish to blue-black skin.  It has also been described as looking like a whale in a giant sturgeon.


At the southern end of Flathead Lake is Findley Point State Park, a 28-acre public recreation area.  Its campground has RV campsites with electric hookups, tent campsites, and 4 boat camping slips.  

If you’re interested in renting an RV, Green Vacation Deals recommends RVshare.

Green Vacation Deals can share ways to save money if you’re interested in buying a tent, a tipi, and camping cookware.

Hotel Deals

If your preference is for a hotel, you should consider the following hotels.  They are offering discounted rates up to 45% and you can book them through to realize the savings.  

  • Lonesome Dove Guest Ranch       45% Discount
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton Kalispell, MT       29% Discount
  • Holiday Inn Express Kalispell       26% Discount
  • FairBridge Inn, Suites & Outlaw Conference Center       25% Discount
  • Hilton Garden Inn Kalispell       23% Discount
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott Kalispell       21% Discount
  • Econo Lodge Inn & Suites       17% Discount
  • Americas Best Value Inn       15% Discount
  • Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Kalispell       15% Discount
  • Red Lion Hotel Kalispell       15% Discount
  • Hampton Inn Kalispell       14% Discount
  • Best Western Plus Flathead Lake Inn & Suites       13% Discount
  • Quality Inn Big Sky       8% Discount