Flathead Indian Reservation

Will Beck
Last Updated: March 4th, 2023

The Flathead Indian Reservation is home to Confederated Salish and Kootenai. The Confederation is federally recognized and comprises three tribes, the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreilles communities.

It offers visitors a chance to get up close and personal with nature and experience the history and culture of the three tribes.

General Information

farm land

What Is Flathead Indian Reservation?

Flathead Indian Reservation is a 1.3 million-acre area where the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreilles tribes reside. It is a place for visitors to learn more about the history of the three tribes and immerse themselves in nature.

The southern half of the Flathead Lake and 68-miles of the lower Flathead River are located on the Reservation. This offers visitors excellent trout and bass fishing opportunities.

When Was The Flathead Indian Reservation Established?.

The Flathead Indian Reservation traces its roots to the Hellgate Treaty, which the tribes reluctantly entered into on July 16th 1855.

The agreement was marred by a language barrier. This led to the Chiefs seceding substantial portions of their land to the United States government.

In exchange, the agreement gave tribal members the rights to hunt, fish, and gather flora within the boundaries of the area.

What Is The Closest Town To Flathead Indian Reservation?

Several towns sit within the boundaries of the reservation. The largest town is Polson, which is best equipped to accommodate visitors. In addition, the Confederation runs its operations from a small town called Pablo.

Other towns to visit on the reservation include St Ignatius and Hot Springs. St Ignatius highlights the impact of the Catholic Church on imparting its values and morals to the native Indian population.

As the name suggests, Hot Springs is home to mineral baths and steaming water sources.

Where Can I Stay When Flathead Indian Reservation?

Your best bet for a bed in the Reservation is to search the town of Polson. It has the most options. However, properties are scattered throughout the 1.3 million-acre reservation if you prefer to stay out of town.

My top accommodation recommendation in the area is 20-miles outside of Polson. The Ninepipes Lodge is located in Allentown and provides unmatchable views of the Ninepipes reservoir set against a jaw-dropping mountain backdrop.

If you are looking at accommodation closer to Polson, the Red Lion Ridgewater Inn and Suites is worth scoping out. Pick your room wisely because you want to ensure it offers a view of the Southend of Flathead Lake. A simple option in town is the America’s Best Value Port Polson Inn.

North of Polson lies the Flathead Lake Waterfront Cabin. It is a match made in heaven for kayakers. The log cabin is equipped with a jetty and allows for an easy launch onto the lake.

Visitors who enjoy gambling and resort-style vacations should consider staying at the Kwataqnuk Resort Casino. It sits on the lake and offers unparalleled vistas of the Mission Mountains.

What Activities Are There In Flathead Reservation?

activities in flathead reservation

Miracle Of America Museum

With over 250,000 items on display, the Miracle of America Museum is a must-visit for cultured tourist. The museum is housed on a 5-acre Pioneer Village and contains Native American artifacts, helicopters, and harps.


Get your rods ready because the water sources in the Reservation are teeming with lake and rainbow trout, yellow perch, and bass. Besides Flathead Lake, there are various reservoirs where you can obtain a permit to fish.


Flathead Lake offers adventurous tourists the chance to get out on the water and navigate in a canoe or kayak. With an abundance of wildlife and picturesque views of the Mission Mountains, it is an excellent way to spend your time.


Travelers looking for an epic hiking trail should prepare a lunch pack and take the 93-mile journey to Glacier National Park. The park is littered with hiking trails that offer vistas of alpine meadows, melting glaciers, lakes, and valleys.


Bird watchers are in for a treat when visiting the Flathead Indian Reservation.

The Ninepipes reservoir is a shallow marsh that is a hive of activity for migratory fowl. If birding is your primary hobby, it is worth checking into the Ninepipes Lodge.

Wildlife Watching

The National Bison Range was established in 1908 under the Roosevelt administration. The refuge is over 100-years old, and beside bison, it is home to elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and black bears.

This is the ideal place for a family to visit and acquaint themselves with the abundance of wildlife in Montana.

The Bison Range is located between the towns of Charlo and Dixon, 32-miles South of Polson.


If you make it up to the Flathead Indian Reservation in winter, your lake activities are limited.

However, the slopes are a short drive away for ski and snowboard enthusiasts. Your nearest resort is Blacktail Mountain, an hour’s drive from Polson.


There are numerous outdoor activities on offer on the Reservation. Most of them center around the great outdoors.

They offer visitors a chance to breathe in the fresh air and soak up the immaculate surroundings. Should hiking, kayaking, fishing, and wildlife watching be insufficient, you can always play a round of golf.

Mission Mountain Golf Club is a par 72 course. Robert Trent Jones trained Gary Roger Baird is credited with designing the course.

The municipal layout is well kept and provides the finest views of the Mission Mountains. Plus, green fees are dirt cheap, a maximum of $58 for 18-holes.

Where Can I Eat In Flathead Indian Reservation?

Polson is the town best equipped to feed a hungry traveler. Cherries BBQ Pit is recommended for those seeking a juicy piece of red meat and a no-fuss dining experience.

There are picnic tables out front for you to tuck into your meal, or you can grab it to go.

Another takeout option is Oak’s Korean Kitchen, which is highly recommended by locals. However, if you prefer a sit-down meal, Betty’s Diner and Fiesta en Jalisco are your best options.

Travelers in the mood for a vibe and a good time should head across the Flathead River to The Shoe. It offers bar food, wine, spirits, and beer.

The Lake City Bakery and Eatery is your destination if you are after a light meal during the day or desire a pastry. Finally, should your body crave dessert and an Espresso, the Blodgett Creamery awaits your order.

Where Can I Drink In Flathead Reservation?

Several watering holes are scattered around the Reservation. However, Polson features the most concentrated offering. Tourists hunting for live music and a stiff drink will find what they need at The Perfect Shot Tavern.

Beer connoisseurs searching for the finest lagers and ales in the area are encouraged to grab a draft at the Glacier Brewing Company.

There are several coffee joints in the district if it is too early to crack open an alcoholic beverage. The tastiest cup of buzz is brewed at Good Coffee Roasting. It is one of the few non-franchise establishments in town.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Flathead Reservation?

best time to visit flathead reservation

The outdoor activities that make Flathead Indian Reservation a desirable location are best experienced in Spring and Summer.

During this time, your birds, elk, and bison are spotted in their droves. This is the ideal time for nature enthusiasts to make the journey.

Furthermore, the star attraction of the Reservation is the Flathead River and Lake, which is best experienced in warmer months. Although ice fishing is an option in winter, the activities are abundant in spring and summer.


The Flathead Indian Reservation is an expansive area that consists of alluring mountain and lake views.

In addition, the area features museums and other historical sites to enlighten visitors about the plight of the Bitterroot Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreilles communities.

The Reservation is best known for the Southern part of Flathead Lake, a key attraction for tourists. Whether you are an adventure junkie or a history whizz this is an area of Montana that one must lay their eyes on.

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About The Author

Will Beck

Will is a true digital nomad, taking his work on the road at every opportunity. His first love is coffee, with travel a close 2nd. He loves nothing more than hitting the road in his self-build campervan and visiting off-the-beaten-path places, away from popular tourist destinations.

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