Monday, June 3, 2013

Lake McDonald Lodge

Lake McDonald Lodge is one of the most iconic lodges in Glacier National Park, with its close proximity to popular attractions such as Apgar Village, Avalanche Lake, and the Trail of the Cedars.  The lodge is also a widely used transfer station for visitors who choose to take a shuttle, or one of the historic red "jammer" buses up to Logan's Pass on the Going-To-The-Sun Road.  The entire complex at Lake McDonald Lodge consists of 14 structures, with cabin accommodations  2 two-story motel units, a restaurant, an auditorium, several support buildings for employee housing, and a general store.  
Lake McDonald in the 1920's and taken by R.E. 'Ted Marble
The lodge was built by homesteader George Snyder, in 1895 as the smaller Glacier Hotel, with locally available materials, such as red cedar and native stone and built to replicate the rustic architectural styles of the other buildings in the park. The property was sold in 1906 to John Lewis, and in 1913, architect, Kirkland Cuttter was hired to design the new hotel constructed by the Great Northern Railroad over the winter of 1913-1914. A partial renovation was was made in 1980, but many of the original features still remain.  Walking in the front entrance you'll notice the cedar pillars holding the upper balcony are the original logs used in the photograph on the left.   Because there was no road to the lodge until 1921, the "front" faces the lake-shore to greet guests who arrived by boat. 

Swing for Glacier Gala Event
 The main lodge was declared a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 28, 1987.May 24th, 2013 marked the 99th time the Lake McDonald Lodge had opened its doors by holding its 10th annual Swing For Glacier Gala Event. The event benefited three non-profit organizations; The Glacier Institute, Glacier National Park Conservancy, and Glacier National Park Associates. The event began at Belton Chalet, with a beer and wine reception, and where then the historic red Jammer buses drove guests to Lake McDonald Lodge for scenic boat rides, swing dancing, silent auction, and a buffet dinner.  

With the lodge's ever-growing popularity and destination for group events and weddings, the lodge is expanding in order to accommodate more guests.  Two cabins that were once used for employee housing will now be converted into guests rooms for the first time.  The cabins have been nearly completely renovated on the inside to provide wheelchair access, updated plumbing, windows, accents, and safety features.  The cabins can either be rented out as an entire unit or by individual rooms and will be ready as early as July of 2013.  Both cabins have spectacular views of either Lake McDonald or Snyder Creek.  

Cabin being renovated for additional guest rooms
Next year marks the centennial anniversary for Lake McDonald Lodge, and while many renovations and restructuring continue to evolve in order to keep the property safe and accessible, the location manager, Tood Ashcraft, makes certain to keep the historic and traditional integrity in place.  In touring the grounds with Todd, he described how he learned many of the hand-me-down traditions that they still use with the employees and guests today.  During the summer, the bellmen hold tours to the guests and can describe the history and traditions in an interactive tour at the lodge in further detail.  

Next time you find yourself in Glacier National Park, stop at Lake McDonald Lodge and learn the history and traditions and walk around to view the paintings by Charles M. Russell, go on a boat tour on Lake McDonald, or just enjoy sitting in the rocking chair in front of the fireplace.  No matter what the activity, make this lodge a definite stop along your trip, and it will not disappoint, as the history and traditions are so rich and still run deep with in the property, the staff, and the guests.

View from the dock at Lake McDonald Lodge

To view more information or to book a room with Lake McDonald Lodge, visit

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