About 10 miles south of Dayton is Polson, a charming lakeside community located on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Polson has several city parks along the lakeshore that offer spectacular views, picnicking, sunbathing and lake access. The Polson Country Club is a beautiful 18-hole golf course on the shores of the lake.
While in Polson, visit its quaint local shops, restaurants and fine art galleries. Learn more about local history at the Polson-Flathead Historical Museum, which contains the original Allard Stagecoach, Calamity Jane’s saddle, displays of Polson’s past, and a pictorial history of Kerr Dam construction. See the largest collection of antique artifacts in western Montana at the Miracle of America Museum. Polson is also home to the Glacier Brewing Company, where visitors can sample locally made brews in the tasting room.
Polson is the trading center for one of Montana’s most fertile farming areas. Polson holds an annual Cherry Festival to celebrate its location in a prime cherry-growing region with numerous orchards. Other events not to be missed include the annual Main Street Festival, the Sandpiper Gallery Art Festival, and performances of classic comedies and musicals by the Port Polson Players.
Incorporated on April 5, 1910, Polson has a history of lumbering, ranching and steamboats. The city was named after pioneer rancher David Polson. Before roads were built along the lake, Port Polson was the transportation hub for travelers from the south. Steamboats played a major part in early transportation of freight and passengers. Today, the town’s population is 4,041.
Kerr Dam, a concrete arch-type dam standing 204 feet high, is located at the outlet of Flathead Lake in Polson. A 1,000-foot boardwalk takes visitors right above the falls to enjoy an amazing view of the canyon.
The Mission Valley south of Polson is bordered by the rugged, snow-capped Mission Mountains. Must-see attractions in the Mission Valley include the People’s Center, the National Bison Range, Ninepipes and Pablo Wildlife Refuges, Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana, and the St. Ignatius Mission.
The People’s Center in Pablo focuses on the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai tribes, with a learning center, exhibit gallery, and gift shop. It also offers “Native Ed-Ventures” such as a traditional encampment, powwow or a reservation tour with a Native American escort.
At the 18,500-acre National Bison Range at Moiese, visitors can spot bison, elk, deer, antelope and barn sheep on self-guided auto tours. Established in 1908, this is one of the oldest big game refuges in the United States. The Ninepipes and Pablo Wildlife Refuges are a birder’s delight. Together they offer more than 5,000 acres of water, marsh and upland grasses. During the fall migrations, up to 80,000 waterfowl may visit the refuges. Tundra swans and shorebirds use the refuges as a stopover, and bald eagles can be spotted here year-round.
The Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana tells the story of the area’s early peoples as well as the trappers, miners, loggers and settlers of the area.
The St. Ignatius Mission National Historic Site was built in 1891 by Indians and Jesuit missionaries from one million bricks made of local clay. On its walls and ceilings are 58 vivid frescoes and murals depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments painted by Brother Joseph Carignano, a self-taught artist who served the mission as a cook and handyman.
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