About Priest Lake

The origins of Priest Lake

are as old as the Ice Age.

Countless millennia ago, a massive glacier slid down the continent leaving deep chasms in its wake. The disturbed land rose in majesty as the rains, sometimes gentle, sometimes viciously unrestrained, filled the young valleys with water. As seasons of snows blanketed the surrounding peaks and rains continued to pour, the reservoir continued to fill. The trapped waters soon leveled to form a lake that became home to aquatic life, providing relief from thirst for the herbivores that flocked to the forest lands and nourishment for the carnivores that were clever enough to find the fish teeming in the lake waters.

Perhaps it was ten thousand years ago that humankind came to this lake, finding a summer Eden that became inhospitable during the icy winter months. Children were born, and generations begat generations of people devoted to this most idyllic country. A deep respect for the natural gifts they found fostered an harmonious relationship with Mother Earth’s abundance. Daily routine was generously interspersed with play as well as religious devotion born of awe. Certain pictograph remnants remain on the “Indian Rock” at Priest Lake, leaving no doubt that Natives were here. We treasure those historical markers.

As new waves of people migrated west, those who could not help but share the same love for its beauty and gifts replaced the Natives of the area on the shores of this lake. Miners, trappers and hunters settled here, and were soon followed by the Jesuit missionaries. The Kalispell Indians began to call the lake “Kaniksu,” which means “Black Robe,” because of the garments worn by the priests; soon thereafter it became known as Priest Lake. It was not part of the Kalispell tradition to claim ownership of land, but for centuries on end they enjoyed this Lake as their summer place, but they went further south to spend their winters in conditions less harsh than here.

We are a part of the new people, and owe much to those who came before, holding this area as extraordinary and deserving of our respect. We continue today to participate in the hunting and gathering traditions of the early ones. Visitors are attracted to the summer activities as well as winter enjoyments. A thriving community lives at Priest Lake year round.

We have inherited the responsibility of stewardship from our predecessors to hold safe this lake, land, forest and wildlife which have been blessed by the sky, sun, rain, and snow.

Mankind has known Priest Lake by other names, but no matter what it may have been called in the past and what name may be given it ten thousand years from today, we hold it in our hearts as dearly as those who came before. If we succeed in good stewardship, this common love of Priest Lake will span countless millennia.

Photo of Priest Lake courtesy of Tom Holman, Photograper

- Thanks, Tom!