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Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, Whitefish Lake in Northwestern Montana spans 3,315 acres and is seven miles long. Created by a melted glacier, the lake sits at the base of Whitefish Mountain Resort and is just miles from Glacier National Park. The shoreline of Whitefish Lake is rapidly being developed by private landowners, but a large portion of the area is protected from dense development by the Whitefish Area Trust Land Plan.
Whitefish Lake is surrounded by the town of Whitefish, named appropriately for the whitefish that the Indians fished from the lake many years ago. In the mid to late 1800s a few settlers came to what is now Whitefish, but the town was not officially established until the early 1900s when the Great Northern Railway decided to build through the area. Trains still pass through the town today, and train tracks on Whitefish Lake's west side serve as a trail to the shoreline for anglers. The Whitefish Railway Depot, built in 1927, is one of the busiest Amtrak stops in the Northwest. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
Tourists and property owners can enjoy year-round activities at Whitefish Lake. During the warm months boating, swimming, fishing and hiking entice visitors to the lake and its surrounding areas. On the north and west sides of the lake where the shoreline is less developed, anglers can fish for several kinds of lake trout, northern pike and more. Public use areas for anglers and swimmers include Les Mason Park, City Beach and Whitefish Lake State Park, a 10-acre park with a campground. Golfers can enjoy the Whitefish Golf Course, a public course that boasts being the only 36-hole complex in the state. Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly Big Mountain Resort) is just minutes from Whitefish Lake and offers the Walk-in-the-Treetops, a tour that includes a scenic journey across a suspended boardwalk.
In the winter, the Glacier Nordic Center features 15 kilometers of ski trails along the Whitefish Golf course. Whitefish Mountain Resort also offers skiing as well as snowboarding opportunities. Fishing at Whitefish Lake is not confined to the spring and summer seasons, as ice-fishing is a popular attraction when the weather turns cold. Glacier National Park is a mere 25 miles from Whitefish and offers an impressive 1.4 million acres for outdoors lovers to explore any time of the year.
History and culture enthusiasts who visit Whitefish Lake can find many opportunities for leisure. The Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish has a public tasting bar for beer-lovers. The Whitefish Theatre Company and The Alpine Theatre Project offer a taste of the performance arts, including an occasional Broadway play. Tourists can learn about the area's timber and railroad heritage at the Stumptown Museum, housed inside The Whitefish Railway Depot.
Whether traveling by train, plane or automobile, the Whitefish area offers visitors an appealing getaway from city life. Whitefish Lake is a year-round haven for those seeking adventure or solitude.
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