MPA borrowed the Big Mountain Snow Bus to haul up our intrepid group of North Fork tourists.
The first stop on the Up the North Fork tour was the Big Creek Work Center, a historic former Forest Service Ranger station. The station began in 1927 and has many well preserved historic buildings including bunkhouses, a dining hall and meeting room and various other outbuildings. Clarence Taber, retired Ranger at the Big Creek Work Center on the North Fork Road, along with Gary Danczyk, Flathead National Forest Staff Officer talked about work and life at Big Creek.
Big Creek Work Center bunkhouses.
Glacier View District Ranger Rob Davies talks a bit about the history of forest management in the Big Creek area.
The Road Show group at Big Creek also heard from Joyce Baltz of the Glacier Insitute. The Glacier Institute operates the Big Creek Outdoor Education Center. The Big Creek campus includes two bunkhouses with bathrooms, a main dining hall (which can accommodate up to forty people), a meeting room, a large classroom, a twenty foot tepee and additional teaching space. Big Creek runs on a generator for electricity and has no public phone service, although a radio phone is available for emergency calls.
Since 1988, Big Creek has been home to our Youth Science Adventure Camps, Discovery School and several adult field courses which operates under a special use permit with the Flathead National Forest.
Glacier Outdoor Education Center camp counselors at Big Creek.
Inside one of the Big Creek bunkhouses.
Happy Campers Sara Scott of MT Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, and MPA Board member, Mara-Gai Katz.
Arriving at Polebridge Ranger Station in Glacier National Park.
Jim Dahlstrom, ranger at the Polebridge Ranger Station in Glacier National Park talked about the station’s early history from 1910, and about the 1988 fire that destroyed nearly all of the station. The current buildings were designed to be compatible with the rustic style and were completed in 1990.
Polebridge Ranger Station, Glacier National Park, completed 1990.
Polebridge Ranger Station
Lois Walker (center left), longtime North Fork resident and North Fork historian gave some history on Polebridge starting at the Northern Lights Saloon. After the establishment of Glacier National Park in 1910 and the construction of a bridge across the North Fork of the Flathead River soon after, travel patterns changed. So William “Bill” Adair and his wife moved to the present location in 1912. They built a cabin (the present-day Northern Lights Saloon) as their home on a 160-acre homestead and began construction of a store. The Adair Mercantile opened in 1914.
The simple back bar inside the North Lights Saloon.
Breakfast and lunch items are served at the Polebridge Mercantile, and dinner, drinks, and music are served up nightly all summer long at the Northern Lights Saloon.
Ah . . . the Merc.
Being at Polebridge Merc just makes you happy.
The store (now the Polebridge Mercantile) was completed in 1914. An icehouse and shop were added soon after. A barn, which burned to the ground in the Red Bench fire of 1988, was completed in the early 1920s. Known in the early days simply as Adair’s, it was the social and business hub of the North Fork and a gateway to the new national park across the river. These five buildings make up the W.L. Adair General Mercantile Historic District. The District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as representative of an early Montana mercantile enterprise.
Polebridge Mercantile became more of a bakery in 1994 and became famous for its bear claw pastries. Today, it serves a wide variety of baked goods for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is served in the nearby Northern Lights Saloon.
MPA Executive Director, Chere Jiusto and husband, Jim Robbins at the Polebridge Merc.
MPA Board Member Bob Ebinger, and wife Robin at the Polebridge Merc.
MPA Board Member and photographer extraordinaire, Rafael Chacon with Lon Johnson.
Flathead National Forest Staff Officer, Gary Danczyk and Chere Jiusto, MPA Executive Director.
The sign back at Polebridge sees a lot of travelers!
Walking across the North Fork on the former pole bridge. Originally, the bridge and the town got its name from the log pole bridge that spanned the river. When the devastating 1964 floods washed it out, it was soon rebuilt, but without the log structure. Today, a double rail log railing is a reminder.
We were very lucky to have Larry Wilson, the King of the North Fork, along on our North Fork trip. The cabin was built in 1922 by Ralph Thayer and was part of the Ford Ranger Station. It’s now part of the recreation rental program of the Forest Service and can be reserved at www.recreation.gov.
Pulling up to the Kintla Ranch.
Matt Brill and Paul Abbott began homesteading along the North Fork starting in 1912 when the area was mostly thick wilderness with no roads. The North Fork Road was completed through the area at the west edge of Glacier National Park in 1914, inviting more homesteading. Soon though, less intrepid homesteaders sold out in the late teens and early 1920s, and Matt Brill amassed 800 acres along the Flathead River. He built a house, barn, root cellar, and a water tower, all constructed of local timber. His was successful at raising goats. He also added cabins to the ranch and in the mid-1920s opened a guest ranch.
Inside the Brill barn.
One of the remaining early cabins at the Kintla Ranch.
Water tower at the Kintla Ranch. In 1947, Matt Brill sold the Kintla Ranch to the Wilson family. Larry Wilson remembers hauling water from the tower and firewood to each guest cabin each morning.
The Kintla Ranch has seen better days, and is a project on the minds of managers at the Flathead National Forest.
A rear view of one of the larger cabins at the Kintla Ranch.
The last stop on the North Fork tour was the center of community life in the North Fork, the Sondreson Community Hall. The log building was constructed in the late 1940s to serve as a central gathering place for North Forkers. It still serves that purpose today and is a near and dear building to all in the area.