The Beauty of Polson

By Beacon Staff

Let’s picture Polson.

It’s hard to say this without sounding cliché: Polson is charming. If you think of all the quaint things you have ever experienced or heard about small-town life, Polson has them. I recall an original television series being written about communities like this. Who knows, maybe Andy Griffith still lurks on the streets of Main Street, U.S.A.

Polson is located at the south end of Flathead Lake in Northwest Montana. The lake is breathtakingly beautiful – serene and pure and the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. A dramatic 73,877 acres of crystal clear glacial lakes and pristine alpine wilderness surround this area. The Mission Valley is bordered by the rugged, snow-capped Mission Mountains and the gorgeous Swan Mountain Range. Heading into Polson from the south, the views are spectacular. On a clear day, the stunning Glacier National Park peaks are visible and the panoramic “postcard” is almost unbelievable.

This welcoming, lakeshore community is the trading center for one of the most fertile farming areas in Montana. It is the prime cherry growing region and home to dozens of orchards. Each summer the Main Street Cherry Festival attracts more than 125 vendors and exhibitors, an old-fashioned street fair in the heart of downtown Polson. Cruisin’ by the Bay, the largest car show in the Pacific Northwest, is hosted in August each year and 500 custom and classic hotrods line the streets of downtown Polson. The Norman Rockwell ideal immortalized: imagine people walking around town carrying bags of fresh vegetables and homemade bread from the farmers market, businessmen dressed in aprons and chef hats competing with each other in the local chili cook-off, kids waving flags at a Fourth of July parade, Main Street closed off and neighbors milling around eating ice cream at a sidewalk sale, a pie eating contest at the Cherry Festival and a hometown football game. It really exists in Polson.

Polson is located on the Flathead Indian Reservation and is surrounded by a rich heritage of Native American culture. The Flathead River runs through Polson and whitewater rafting is a favorite pastime. The Kerr Dam is located nearby and is a massive and awesome structure, more than 200 feet high. Flathead Lake’s water level is controlled seasonally and its management is the result of a cooperative system between Hungry Horse and Kerr dams. Flathead Lake is a national treasure and is conserved as such.

This idyllic community is the center of all recreation as the summer months approach. The Polson Bay Golf Course is world class, situated on the shores of the lake. The climate is temperate in the summer and residents play “host” to the visitors who travel from all over to enjoy the lovely landscapes and leisure activities. Flathead Lake is paradise for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. Enjoy fishing, canoeing, kayaking, water sports, races and, of course, swimming or lounging by the shore. There are many places to enjoy a meal overlooking the lake or local parks to pack a picnic and have a day in the sun. The lake can be an ideal “day trip” on motorcycle, or a bicycle for the more adventurous. Begin in the south, travel up the east shore stopping at each local eatery and land in Bigfork, the headwaters of the Flathead. Travel south on the western shore to complete the journey. Pass through Lakeside and Rollins and enjoy a tasting at the local winery on the shores of Flathead Lake.

Polson boasts three museums that offer an insight through hands-on displays and a varied collection of historic memorabilia. Just south of Ronan, there is the National Bison Range that is home to large herds of bison, elk, deer and antelope. Pablo Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for waterfowl and local bird species of all kinds. It’s a perfect destination for a man and his binoculars.

Northwest Montana is a destination location. Travelers and explorers have historically found the spectacular terrain both challenging and soothing. Many become residents, unable to leave this “last best place.” Polson is a hold out from days past. It has the irresistible combination of old-fashioned sensibility and charm with some modern conveniences. They wouldn’t call it a slow pace, just slower. The cost of living hasn’t increased with tollbooths or parking meters. City sounds, traffic and pollution are nowhere to be found. It’s the fresh air, fresh water and wide open spaces. Take all of the nostalgia and camaraderie, packaged along with Flathead Lake, Mission Valley and Swan Mountain Range and you have discovered the beauty and simplicity of Polson.

Lisa Kinyon is a broker with Keller Williams Realty

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