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Lake Mary Ronan State Park, MT
mini location map2022-07-14
30 by photographer avatartibber
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Lake Mary Ronan State Park, MT 
Lake Mary Ronan State Park, MT
Hiking3.15 Miles 238 AEG
Hiking3.15 Miles   1 Hour   19 Mns   2.55 mph
238 ft AEG      5 Mns Break
1st trip
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We decided last summer we'd like to try this hike in the Park.  So after a late breakfast we drove 25 minutes to the campground.  There is a parking area just above the lake near the boat ramp.  We went and checked out the lake area before heading south and doing the loop counterclockwise.  Lake Mary Ronan State Park is a public recreation area located seven miles northwest of the Flathead Lake community of Dayton, Montana. The state park occupies 120 acres on the east side of 1,500-acre Lake Mary Ronan at 3,770 feet. The trail wasn't clearly marked in areas and there seemed to be other trails here and there. 

We hiked south for a bit before turning east through the forest.  The trees are healthy and tall and somewhat skinny.  There were options along the way to circle back but we continued east.  The trail is overgrown in some areas but nothing sticky so it doesn't seem a big deal.  We eventually came to a meadow but I was disappointed that there weren't any wildflowers.  However, we would start encountering some wildflowers once we made our turn to the west.  We did encounter another hiker so we didn't feel quite as isolated out here.  The trail isn't well-marked so we were operating on the "hope we're on the trail" mantra.  We made our way back into the forest and managed to get back to the campground.  Getting to our parking spot was another thing as it's a little confusing as you wrap around some of the camping areas.

Once back to the vehicle we saw a sign for another trail so we decided to take that.  Well it wasn't much of a trail at all.  It was overgrown and very buggy.  We were glad to get to the north side of it and rather than going back the way we came, we opted for the road. So we took Sahinen Lane up to Lake Mary Ronan Road to the campground.  We did get to see a couple interesting things near the homes in this area as the Lane goes through the very small Mountain Meadows Resort area.  Their hours for the bar are interesting: Mon and Tues : CLOSED Wednesday-Friday : Bar Open 4pm till SLOW Saturday's Noon till SLOW Sunday's Noon till SLOW.

After the hike we were off to Lake Mary Ronan Lodge for a bite to eat but they didn't open until 4:30. We stopped by Mountain Meadows but it didn't open until 4. Next we decided to try Camp Tuffit (founded in 1917) but their menu didn't appeal to either of us so we walked around. There are cabins and camping/RV spots here as well. Camp Tuffit is mostly rustic and is run by the original owner's great great grandson.

Our last stop of the day was to see the Seli'š Ksanka Qlispe' Dam (formerly Kerr Dam). I remember hearing/seeing about it when I lived in Montana but it really wasn't on my radar. So we drove there; about 45 minutes. I also needed to drop off a sympathy card for my cousin who died while kayaking a river outside of McCall ID. It's a pretty drive into Polson as you have great views of Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains. After you get through Polson, you do have to pay attention to the road signs to get you to the parking area. We saw a nice buck along the way so we stopped to get a couple nice pictures.

To get to the Seli'š Ksanka Qlispe' Dam Overlook you have to walk down a 1,000-foot boardwalk of 347 steps, one way. You get great views on the way down from both sides, one toward the Flathead River, the other to the dam on Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains in the distance to the east and south. The scenic lookout at the bottom is covered and has benches as well. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes CSKT bot the Dam in 2015, thus the name change.  The Dam is 204 feet tall, 541 feet long and has14 spillways.  The rush of the water over this man made spectacle runs 54 feet higher than even Niagara Falls.

Construction started on the dam in 1930, just as the Great Depression was sweeping the nation. After pursuing a loan from FDR, construction restarted in 1936 and was finished in 1938. The dam's hydro power plant consists of three units that receive water from three different penstocks, located 865 feet upstream.  From the overlook and further up you can see the power house below as well as an amazing view of the canyon that the Flathead River flows through.  There is some great geology above that area.  There are float trips you can do here too.
Needless to say, if you're in the area, it's a worthy stop. 

I posted the links to these videos in the Meadowlark Lane of Big Arm triplog:
Big Arm, Flathead Lake, Lake Mary Ronan, Kerr Dam [ youtube video ]
Kerr Dam, Lake Mary Ronan, Big Arm, Whitefish [ youtube video ]
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light
For me, sometimes it's just as much about the journey as the destination.
Oh, and once in awhile, don't forget to look back at the trail you've traveled.
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