My Forty Years Scribblin's
Historical Accounts
Little Legends of Legendary Lodge

This account was written in 1995 and published in the July-August 1996 issue of The Montana Journal. A shorter version of this was published as Observatory, Flowers, and a Tea Housein Cabin Fever(1989).


History sleeps at Legendary Lodge, rousing only when nudged by an inquisitive soul pressing for a glimpse of the past. The streams of travelers on the highway bordering Salmon Lake are largely unaware that the beautiful place was begun in the early 1900s by W.A. Clark II, son of one of Montana's Copper Kings. At the time, Missoula County could not handle the cost of building a road across Blanchard Flats, so throughout those years, the property owners of the area could only reach their summer homes after an arduous trip cross-country by way of Woodworth and down hill from Tote Road Lakes. Notable people were entertained at Legendary, among them, movie actors and politicians. It is said that laws were made there, and Clark's guests enjoyed the best. A gardener was employed to grow fresh flowers and vegetables where St. Joseph's chapel now stands. Guests were astonished and amused to see the cook chase an occasional little black bear out of the kitchen!

About ninety head of pack and saddle horses were required to transport groups of Clark's vacationers into the South Fork of the Flathead, now The Bob Marshall Wilderness. For those who did not fancy a pack trip, there was entertainment a-plenty at the lodge: swimming, boating, a bowling alley, and hikes up the mountain side to the "Tea House," a little gazebo-like structure perched on a pinnacle behind the lodge. The name was bestowed because refreshments were served while the climbers rested. Behind the tea house was a small building that housed a set of expensive instruments to study the stars. The instruments were given to the University in Missoula, and the little gazebo withstood the rigors of time for approximately fifty years before tumbling down the mountain side.

The acres of water lilies, or water hyacinths, that bloom in mid-summer evolved from four plants that were brought from Boston in a suit case owned by Miss Susan Bickford. They were a gift to her brother, Judge Bickford, early-day Missoula lawyer. In recent years there has been some concern as to how to control the plants before they take over the lake.

W.A. Clark II died at his summer home at Salmon Lake. His son, W.A. Clark III, was killed in an airplane accident in 1934, after which the place was sold. It was at one time a gamblers' retreat, but in 1951, it was given to the Roman Catholic Church and subsequently became and still is used as a youth camp.