Wild Horse Island
There are indeed wild horses on this island near the Big Arm of Flathead Lake. There’s also a thriving herd of bighorn sheep and a wealth of birdlife, including ospreys, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and Canada geese. The island exists because its rock base resisted the plowing action of the glacier that scooped out Flathead Lake. It was used as a sort of safe house for the local Flathead and Pend d’Oreille horses when Blackfeet came on raids.
Private concerns took over the island for many years, but it became a state park in 1977, and in 1983 the Bureau of Land Management began turning horses loose there. In 1940 two bighorn sheep were transplanted there as a tourist attraction. The herd grew to beyond what the island could support, and many sheep died of starvation before the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks began moving Wild Horse Island bighorns to other areas of the state.
Wild Horse Island (406/849-5256, http://fwp.mt.gov) is a day-use park; camping and fires (including camp stoves) are prohibited, and there are still some private landholdings to avoid. You’ll need a boat to get here (available at Sunny Shores Marina, 406/849-5622).
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition