Extends 91 miles S of Bigfork; southern end: 33 miles E of Missoula; 90 miles W of Helena
The 50-mile stretch of Mont. 83 from Columbia Falls to Swan, Condon, and Seeley lakes is isolated from Flathead Lake's tourist attractions. Though less traveled, the road boasts vistas even more lovely than those seen from U.S. 93, its federal cousin to the west. Opportunities for watching wildlife are quite good, and Seeley, Summit, and Alva lakes -- all excellent recreational areas -- lie close to the highway.
Swan Valley seems more authentically "Montana" than other, busier areas, perhaps because the area isn't developed for tourists. Though some think the timber industry clear-cuts are an eyesore, the remainder of this thinly populated area is crowned with snowcapped mountains and accessible lakes. Swan Valley seems remote compared to the nearby larger towns -- an hour from Missoula, 2 hours from Helena -- and it looks like it will remain relatively undiscovered for some time. In winter, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and even sled-dog mushing are the sports of choice in this out-of-the-way wonderland. Be sure to watch out for deer year-round along Mont. 83, especially at dawn and dusk -- and remember, they usually travel in small groups.
Seeley Lake is one of the places where you can see loon. Henry David Thoreau described the bird's call as a "long-drawn, unearthly howl, probably more like that of a wolf than any other bird." The loon is a symbol of north-country wilderness, and an appropriate one for this quiet and beautiful area.