Bigfork is situated on a bay where the Swan River empties into Flathead Lake . It’s an exceptionally lovely site that’s turned into the kind of upscale resort community that was once foreign to the state. Certainly no other town in northwestern Montana is so devoted to art galleries, fine restaurants, high-end boutiques—and real estate offices.
The year-round population of about 1,500 can rise exponentially during the summer. High summer is theater season in Bigfork, with its accompanying tour buses and crowds. If the prospect of crowded sidewalks seems a little daunting, consider visiting Bigfork in the off-season, when it’s more pleasant to wander through the galleries and bookshops.
Bigfork was founded in 1902, about the time the hydroelectric plant at the mouth of the Swan River was built to supply electricity for Kalispell . The electric company is still here, and the bridge is the best place to stand and ponder how it works. (Water from the Swan River is diverted to a higher level, then dropped through turbines to generate power.)