Wild Horse Island is a 2,000+ acre island on Flathead Lake that offers beautiful views of the Swan and Mission Mountain Range, hiking trails, and fishing opportunities. While it is not possible to camp overnight on the island, visitors are welcome to enjoy a day trip with their boat rentals or rides from one of many outfitters around the area.
In addition to the herd of wild horses, the island is home to mule deer, bighorn sheep, waterfowl, and bald eagles. Visitors also find old-growth Ponderosa pine forests and prairie land dotted with scenic vistas.
The island’s story is as much about people as it is about wildlife and lands. It began with the Pend d’Oreille tribe, which kept herds of horses on the island for safekeeping from rival tribes. Then it was a place for people to live on the frontier, when homesteading opened in Montana in 1915 and the federal government put parcels of land up for sale.
A man from Minnesota, Colonel Almond White, bought many of the lots on Wild Horse Island and had grand plans for lakefront villas, a boys school, summer camps for Scouts and Campfire Girls, a hotel, a power plant on a creek, and even a celestial observatory atop one of the island’s peaks. It was a time when speculators were able to buy land at bargain prices.
Fortunately for everyone, those plans didn’t come to pass and most of the island is now a state park. A few private lots remain, but most of the island is public and accessible by boat. The state park is a favorite destination for visitors of all ages and from across the country, and a day trip to this spectacular natural wonder can be as exciting or relaxing as you want it to be.
The state park is located in the Big Arm region of Flathead Lake, a section dedicated to outdoor pursuits. Here you’ll find park-run campgrounds, lake resorts, outdoor gear outfitters and tour operators.
The main entrance to the park is Skeeko Bay, where a public boat landing welcomes visitors and serves as the trailhead for the island’s main hiking trails. Nearby is Driftwood Point, another natural point and kayak landing on the north shore of the island. It is a short hike to the herd of wild horses from either location. The island’s horses are most easily seen on the west side of the lake, where they graze in the sage brush. The best viewing times of the herd are in early spring and late fall, when they’re most active. As a reminder, all wildlife is protected and it’s illegal to approach within 100 feet of any animal, including the herd of wild horses. This includes feeding or petting the animals. It’s also a violation of park regulations to remove artifacts from the island. This is why it’s important to visit only during the designated hours of operation and not leave trash or fires behind. wild horse island flathead lake