The Towns

Before Glacier Park was established, homesteaders knew the beauty of the area and settled into form small townships. Apgar—which sits at the foot of Lake McDonald—was a tiny little settlement complete with a one-room school that still exists for visitors to see. Frontier artist Charlie Russell had a lodge (Bull Head Lodge) nearby the tiny town, and both Russell and the town of Apgar were a destination for early horse packers in the area including the famed guide, Howard Eaton. Milo Apgar was the first settler in the area, circa 1890, and the town bears his namesake. He and Charlie Russell entertained many guests over the years.

Later, the town became a site for tourists. Complete with a gas station, hotels and campgrounds, the National Park Service slowly acquired land within the park—and many of the early settlers moved onto more established towns in the area.

But of those locals that were lucky enough to live in the boundaries of Glacier Park—the tales of life at Apgar still abound. Men jury-rigged motors onto sleds to navigate the ice of Lake McDonalds and sisters made their own swimsuits for the inaugural spring  plunge into the cold waters of Lake McDonald. Fire ravaged the town on more than one occasion, and settlers huddled on the dock or went to the middle of the lake to flee the flames.

Down the road at Belton (christened ‘West Glacier’ in 1949), the little town stands literally at the gateway to Glacier.

The name Belton was the original Great Northern Railway station name and by 1900, a small post office was established at the site.

The Belton Chalet is one of the most intact historical structures in the area, and architectural tours that mark this buildings 100th anniversary (the lodge style chalet was constructed in 1910) will be conducted every Wednesday at 3- 4 p.m. throughout the summer. Call 888-5000 for more information.

A tour through West Glacier reveals many original structures, so take the time to stroll around at the gateway to Glacier!