Guide to Kalispell, Montana
Kalispell, Montana is a fast growing town located in the Flathead Valley of Northwest Montana, just down the road from Glacier National Park. Since so many people pass through Kalispell on their way to some fishing destination or another, I thought it would be helpful to prepare a guide along with some photos for Big Sky Fishing.Com site visitors.
Due to Kalispell's location near Glacier National Park, and the fact that it is the largest town nearest the popular west entrance, it is probably no surprise that Kalispell is over-run with tourists during the summer. Generally, summer in this part of Montana begins sometime in mid-June and will last up until a week or so after Labor Day. Then the bulk of the visitors return home and I get my favorite national park back to myself again.
A Useless Kalispell Study
Back in the early part of the 2000’s, someone in town spent some money in a study to determine what drives the economy of Kalispell and the Flathead Valley. The study, in a remarkable conclusion, said tourism, particularly to Glacier National Park, was what drove the economy, especially since so many of the resource extraction industries have disappeared.
For someone who lives in Kalispell, it was rather a brain dead conclusion since it was patently obvious by the out-state license plates and the traffic up to the park what everyone is doing up here and where they are going. Still, governments must be governments, and this rather useless study at least confirmed to everyone in charge of the Flathead Valley what was bringing people here.
This is not to say Kalispell doesn’t have many other redeeming qualities. It does. Kalispell, for a relatively small town, has a staggering amount of restaurants, hotels, shopping areas and related things. The new movie theatre also makes a fine way to pass away the time on a rare rainy summer day. In short, anyone visiting Kalispell won’t be left starving or in want of some forgotten piece of clothing, camping or outdoor gear.
Kalispell Location & Population
Kalispell, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is found near Glacier National Park. From downtown Kalispell, it is about a 32-mile drive to the West Glacier entrance of Glacier National Park. Allow about 45-50 minutes of drive time to reach it, though. On a map, Kalispell is located just north of Flathead Lake. If you see another big lake on the map (Whitefish Lake), then you’ve looked a bit too far.
Despite the fast growth, Kalispell still has a relatively small population. In 2009, Kalispell had an estimated population of 21,000 people – quite the jump from the 15,000 people who lived in town just six years earlier. If you include the sprinkling of development just outside the city limits (“Greater Kalispell”), you end up with a population of around 38,000+ people. Overall, Flathead County (which Kalispell is a part of), has a total population of about 90,000 people.
Now, that county population figure sounds like many people. Truthfully, it’s more than I would like to see. However, you do need to remember that Flathead County is a huge county – nearly the size of Connecticut. The county includes a sizable portion of Glacier National Park, various Wilderness Areas, National Forests and half of Flathead Lake for good measure. As such, you’ll find the bulk of the population in the actual valley – while virtually no one lives anyplace else.
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