Seattle, WA to Polson, MT
We left Bothell and the Seattle area and headed east. We were headed for Glacier National Park, but we made a couple of interim stops along the way.
Our first stop was Suncrest RV Resort in Moses Lake, WA, which was about a three-hour drive from Bothell. Suncrest RV has paved roads and pads with grass between the sites. Some of the sites are pull-throughs and some are back-ins. We got a pull-through so we wouldn't have to unhook the car since we were only staying one night. There was a little noise from I-90, but it was hot and the air conditioner pretty much drowned it out. Suncrest RV has full hookups and free Wi-Fi. The photo below shows our site at Suncrest RV.
From Moses Lake, we had a little less than a three-hour drive to Kahnderosa Campground in Cataldo, MT. Kahnderosa isn't fancy, but the owner was very friendly and it was fine for a one-night stop. The roads are mostly dirt and the sites are grass. Kahnderosa has water and 30-amp electric only. They gave us the end site so we wouldn't have any problems getting satellite reception and so we could pull through and not have to unhook the car, but that put us at the end of the electrical run so we had problems with low voltage. Kahnderosa is conveniently located right off I-90, which means there was traffic noise. The next photo shows our site at Kahnderosa Campground.
From Kahnderosa Campground in Cataldo, we had about a four-hour drive to Polson, MT, which is located at the southern end of Flathead Lake about an hour and a half south of Glacier National Park. In Polson, we stayed at Eagle Nest RV Resort. We were impressed by their sign as we drove into the campground.
Eagle Nest RV has full hookups with 50-amp electric, free Wi-Fi, and cable TV. The roads and patios are paved and the pads are gravel. The sites are nice and wide; but unfortunately, they are all short. Parking for back-in sites is at the front of your site parallel to the road. This makes the roads quite narrow. Parking for pull-through sites is in small parking areas located a short distance away from the sites. The next photo shows our site at Eagle Nest RV. You can see the parking area for the pull-through sites behind our motor home.
Eagle Nest is a nice, quiet campground. After our busy schedule in the Seattle area and after three days of traveling, we scheduled several days in Polson to unwind. Although we didn't have any definite sightseeing plans while staying in Polson, we did find out about the National Bison Range Wildlife Refuge located about half an hour to the south.
The National Bison Range was established in 1908 as a refuge for the American bison. Once numbering in the tens of millions, by the end of the 1800s there were only about 100 bison roaming wild. Larger numbers existed in private herds, but the bison were on the brink of extinction. Bison were eradicated during the Indian Wars to deprive the Indians of a valuable food source. Bison were also killed off because they competed with cattle for food.
The National Bison Range covers about 18,500 acres and has a relatively small herd of bison that ranges in size from 350 to 500 animals. The Bison Range is also a wildlife preserve and is home to elk, black bear, deer, pronghorn, coyote, and bighorn sheep as well as numerous species of birds. A large part of the range is prairie, but there are also forests, streams, and wetlands providing habitat for many different species of animals.
There is a 19-mile, gravel road that loops around the range. The loop road is open in summer, but there is a short, two-way section of the road that is used in winter (weather permitting). There are numbered signs along the road that correspond to descriptions on a map they hand out at the visitor center.
One of the first areas the road passes is Pauline Creek. The creek bed is dry this time of year, but there is enough moisture in the ground from seeps along the way that there are trees and small shrubs along the creek bed. Many of the shrubs are huckleberry bushes. Huckleberries, which are shown in the next photo, are similar to blueberries.
The map said to look for bears feeding on huckleberries in summer. Sure enough, this black bear was on its way into the thicket near the upper end of Pauline Creek.
Shortly after we saw the bear, the road started to climb fairly steeply. Overall, the road gains 2,000 feet in elevation. The next photo is looking back down the valley. The green area to the right of center is where Pauline Creek is located. You can see part of a forested area on the left, and you can see some of the switchbacks in the road.
At the top of the road looking to the northeast, you can see the glacial valley that was once Glacial Lake Missoula. Unfortunately, it was quite hazy the day we were there, but the next photo shows the valley where Lake Missoula was once located.
Lake Missoula was created by ice dams across the Clark Fork River during the Ice Age and had an area of about 3,000 square miles. Periodically, the ice dam would give way creating cataclysmic floods that helped create the Columbia River Gorge that we saw a few weeks ago while we were in Oregon. The lake drained and refilled dozens of times before the glaciers finally retreated.
The range is separated into several areas by fences. Although the bison roam free within an area, they are periodically moved from one area to another to help keep any one area from being overgrazed. As the road wound back down to the valley, we passed the area of the range where the bison were supposed to be. Unfortunately, there were no bison within sight. However, we did see some pronghorn. Pronghorn are commonly called antelope, they are really a separate species. The pronghorn eat mostly broad-leaf plants and do not compete for food with the bison, which eat grasses.
A little farther along, the road runs along Mission Creek. The map said to look for deer and elk in this area. Shortly, we saw two young whitetail deer...
...followed by a bull elk.
We were disappointed we didn't see any bison, but for Margery it brought to life the ballad, Home On the Range. We saw "where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play." We were grateful to have seen so many other animals at the preserve. On our way back to the motor home, we took a little detour to drive into downtown Polson to see Flathead Lake. Flathead Lake is about 30 miles long and 16 miles wide and is the largest natural, freshwater lake in the western United States. The area of Flathead Lake exceeds the area of Lake Tahoe by about half a square mile. Although the lake is a natural lake formed by moraine dam left by a receding glacier, there is man-made dam that is used to regulate the water level to provide water for irrigation and for hydroelectric power.
Flathead Lake is popular for fishing and boating. The next photo shows the public boat launch area near downtown Polson.
From Polson, we headed north about an hour and a half to stay in Coram, MT to visit Glacier National Park. Look for our next post and we'll tell you all about it.