If you’re looking for a spot on Flathead Lake that’s both unspoiled and wild, look no further than Wild Horse Island. It is, by far, the largest island in Montana’s largest freshwater lake and has a long history of human use dating back centuries. In addition to five to six Wild Horses, the park is also home to Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, songbirds, waterfowl and bald eagles.
It’s the most pristine of Flathead Lake’s state parks and is within the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana. The pristine waters are popular for swimming, boating, sailing and fishing. It is a great destination for those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The island is also popular for hiking, camping and picnicking.
The name “Wild Horse Island” stems back to the Salish-Kootenai tribes who used it to pasture their horses and keep them from being stolen by other tribes. The horses still call the park home today. Visitors to the island can take a hike on the four miles of interconnected trails or explore off-trail. Wildlife is abundant and includes bighorn sheep, mule deer, songbirds, waterfowl, falcons and bald eagles.
Visitors can fish from the island’s shore, or from a boat with a joint state/tribal license. Private property is found along parts of the perimeter of the island, so please be mindful not to encroach on any private lots.
A boat is the only way to access the island from the mainland and there are several public boat landings around the Flathead Lake area. The main boat landing is at Skeeko Bay and provides a trailhead for the island’s trails. Other landings are available at Driftwood Point and other locations around the Flathead Lake.
If you’re planning on visiting the park, be sure to check the weather conditions before heading out. Flathead Lake can be known to shift suddenly and can become rough at times, even in calm conditions.
Bring your own boat (remember to stop at one of the state’s boat inspection stations upon entering Montana to prevent the spread of invasive mussel species), rent a boat at various locations around Flathead Lake or book a guided tour with a company that offers tours from Kalispell or Polson. For the safety of the herd, don’t feed or chase the horses and remember it is illegal to approach within 100 feet of any wildlife, including the horses. The island has a long and rich history and is a beautiful destination that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. wild horse island flathead lake