A Short History of Bigfork

How the best little town in the Flathead Valley came to be

It’s easy to understand why our town’s founder, a young Everit L. Sliter, fell in love with Bigfork when he first arrived for a hunting and fishing trip in 1889. Like many of today’s residents, Sliter was awed by the vastness of Flathead Lake, the rolling Swan and Flathead rivers that feed it, and the majestic mountains that cradle Bigfork like a precious jewel.

By 1894, Sliter had relocated his family from his native Michigan and purchased nearly 140 acres in Bigfork, where he planted one of the largest orchards in the valley. Sliter went on to build an estate, which included Bigfork’s first hotel rooms, and a post office. His vision laid the groundwork for future development and helped establish the Bigfork we know today.

The natural surroundings that made a Montanan out of Everit Sliter are still just as awe-inspiring, and our little town of Bigfork is still one of Flathead Valley’s most beautiful places. Many of the places you can visit today have ties to Bigfork’s historic past, including Eva Gates Preserves, which was founded in 1949, Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts, which has been a Bigfork institution for over 50 years, the Bigfork Inn, which was first opened as a hotel in 1910 and now serves as a family friendly restaurant and meeting place, and of course the old steel bridge that was built in 1911 to replace a wooden bridge that had spanned the Swan River since 1900.

If you’d like to learn more about Bigfork and its colorful past, visit Bigfork Art and Cultural Center to learn about The Bigfork Documentary Project, which tells the story of Bigfork: its geography, early settlement and growth, and the journey to its current place of culture, recreation, and community. The project was a labor of love for locals Denny Kellogg, Tabby Ivy, Ed Gillenwater, and Don Beans, and all proceeds from the documentary film and accompanying book will benefit the Bigfork Arts and Cultural Center (BACC).