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. Glacier National Park, with its wildlife and the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road is less than an hour away. Eagle Bend Golf Course provides 27 holes of sculpted fairways, excellent greens and magnificent views. Jewel Basin Hiking Area in the Flathead National Forest is home to more than 15,000 acres for backcountry hiking, camping and fishing. And in winter, Whitefish Mountain Resort to the north and Blacktail Ski Area on the lake’s west shore offer excellent downhill and snowboarding opportunities.
Throughout the year, Bigfork is alive with activity. Every season brings special events including the famous Bigfork Festival of the Arts, Tamarack Time! and an old-fashioned Christmas in Bigfork. 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. 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.
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:
Lakes & Rivers with Public Access