The Village by the Bay

By Beacon Staff

Flathead Valley, in Northwest Montana, offers a little something for everyone, providing a dream many seek, but few find. The Flathead, as locals call the valley, lies just west of the Continental Divide in Northwest Montana. Here you’ll find the gateway to Glacier National Park, and the home of both Whitefish Mountain Resort and Blacktail Ski Area. Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, is also among the cleanest large lakes and perfect for sailing, cruising, swimming, and fishing.

Bigfork, commonly known as the “Village by the Bay,” originated as a gathering place for the native tribes due to the abundance of natural resources in the area. Named Bigfork in 1901 when the town was originally platted, this community boasted a power plant, built in 1889, making the naming of main street, Electric Avenue, a logical decision. Located where “Flathead Lake Begins,” Bigfork’s commerce began in the logging and farming arenas. The waterways made this area the best choice for transporting logs and navigating the lakes and rivers in the surrounding areas. It has now evolved into a town catering to leisure, recreation and artistic appreciation. A beautiful pocket community, surrounded by mountains, forests and water, Bigfork is known for fine dining, fine art and great theater. It has consistently been voted “One of the Best Small Art Towns in the West.” This area is a hidden gem, but not a well-kept secret.

A surprisingly mild climate invites you outside all year. Typical winter temperatures are in the 20s and 30s. Summer temperatures usually range from the 70s to low 90s.Of course, what’s not to love here in Bigfork and the Flathead Valley of Montana? I guess most people discover Bigfork either on a trip to see Glacier National Park, or as an invited guest. The local joke around here is that we have two seasons: winter and guests. Most of my clients come in from other states, fall in love with Montana and Bigfork, and decide to take root either starting with a second home or taking the plunge to make this their full-time home.

This is a mecca of recreational opportunities. Can you say “canoeing, kayaking, waterskiing, lake fishing, fly fishing, ice fishing, hiking, rock climbing, caving, hunting, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing, snow mobiling, horseback riding, river rafting, camping, mountain biking, cycling, bird watching, golfing, and tennis” three times in a row? I am tongue-twisted just typing it! If you love golf as much as we do, then you will appreciate that Golf Digest selected the Flathead Valley as a “Top 50 Golf Destination.” There are nine championship golf courses within a 45-minute drive, offering outstanding quality at an affordable price!

Small town living is especially meaningful these days. Moving from the anonymity of big city living to the charm of a small town (where everyone knows your name) brings a certain amount of comfort and quality to your life. It’s the little oddities, the characters you meet, group involvement and the sense of belonging that you gain. When I arrived in January 1989, the entire village of Bigfork was dressed for the holidays with lights and trees and bows. I saw the Bigfork Playhouse, the art galleries and shops, the fine dining, the golf course, the incredible scenery and the greatest people and soon-to-be-neighbors I could ask for. Oh sure, we have our challenges, but as an unincorporated village, you find the level of volunteerism at all-time highs and with that comes a sense of ownership. The Bigfork community has managed to maintain its ties to its origins, a sense of small town history, while appealing to our more modern sensibilities. It is a true destination location – one that keeps drawing our guests back until they call it their home.

Joyce Mitchell is the broker/owner of Mitchell and Associates Real Estate Brokerage, LLP

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