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Lake Information for Flathead Lake


Flathead Lake is the largest lake in the western part of the coterminous United States, surpassing Nevada/California's Lake Tahoe by .5 miles in surface area, 5 miles in length, and about 3.5 miles in width, Flathead Lake is also the largest lake in the state of Montana. This lake is one of the cleanest in the world for its size and type. While the Great Salt Lake is technically larger than Flathead Lake, the former is a natural salt lake or inland sea while Flathead Lake is a freshwater lake.

Located in the northwest corner of the state, 7 miles (11 km) south of Kalispell, it is approximately 30 miles (50 km) long and 16 miles (25 km) wide, covering 191.5 square miles (495.9 kmĀ²). Flathead Lake is 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Glacier National Park and is flanked by two scenic highways, which wind along its curving shoreline. On the west side is US Highway 93, and on the east, is Route 35.
Flathead Lake from space, May 1985; note: not a true color image

The lake is bordered on its eastern shore by the Mission Mountains and on the west by the Salish Mountains. The Flathead valley was formed by the glacial damming of the Flathead River and sustains a remarkably mild climate for a region located this far north and inland; the Pacific Ocean is almost 400 miles to the west. The mild climate allows for cherry orchards on the east shore and vineyards for wine production on the west shore. There are also apple, pear and plum orchards around the lake as well as vegetable, hay, honey, nursery tree, Christmas tree, sod/turf and wheat production bordering or near the lake.

Once known as "Salish Lake", this body of water takes its name from the Salish (Flathead) Indians who live at the southern end of the lake on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Kerr Dam, near Polson, regulates the lake's water level and provides hydroelectric power and water for irrigation. The lake has an irregularly-shaped shoreline and a dozen small islands, the largest of which is a state park called Wild Horse Island. These islands cover 5.5 square miles (14.2 square kilometers). Besides the Flathead River, the Swan River is the lake's other major tributary. The lake is inhabited by the native bull trout and cutthroat trout, as well as the non-native lake trout, yellow perch, and lake whitefish. It is also reportedly inhabited by the infamous Flathead Lake Monster.

Facilities and Parks: 

There are several boat ramps and access points. Click here to go to the Montana DNR's list of locations.

Fishing Description: 

Game fishing opportunities include: Lake Trout, Lake Whitefish, and Westslope Cutthroat Trout.

Other species present include: Brook Trout, Bull Trout, Kokanee, Largemouth Bass, Mountain Whitefish, Northern Pike, Rainbow Trout, Yellow Perch, and Black Bullhead.

Brook Trout
Lake Trout
Largemouth Bass
Rainbow Trout
Optional Information
Maximum depth: 
Surface area: 
Flathead Lake
Lake type: 

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