EXPLORE: Wild Horse Island

By Beacon Staff

Don’t be fooled by the scale of your map:

Wild Horse Island is massive.

The forested isle off the west shore of Flathead Lake is home to 2,160 acres of old growth Ponderosa pine, trail labyrinths and families of bighorn sheep, mule deer and, yes, wild horses.

It’s the largest island in the biggest freshwater lake west of Minnesota and one of 10 primitive state parks in Montana, meaning almost all 2,100 acres of habitat are open to the public but sustained like a wilderness.

A year-round day-use state park is on site and visitors are welcome to take part in bird watching and other wildlife viewing as well as hiking, fishing and swimming.

The hermetic isle remains an historic landmark for the Salish-Kootenai Indians, who once pastured their horses on site.

How to get there:

The isle’s shoreline can only be reached via boat, most commonly from Big Arm State Park.

Paddlers can attempt the journey, but it’s a long haul.

There are segments of private property on the island, and park managers urge visitors to not use private docks.

A joint state/tribal fishing license is required at this site due to the location of the Flathead Indian Reservation.

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