The Story of the Tamaracks Resort begins in the early 1900s with the building of its first summer cabin on the east shores of Seeley Lake. One of the first cabins to be built around this area went up in 1916, today it is the cabin we call Lakeside.
In the Early 1920s, more privately owned summer cabins were added to the east shores of the lake. Around 1927, Henry & Maude Turner had an idea: they would buy up some cabins and lease the land on a beautiful western lake and open a dude ranch. As it turned out, this log cabin and three of the four cabins around it were for sale.
A PLACE WHERE TIME STANDS STILL
The Turners purchased the cabins, and eventually ended up buying the fourth cabin as well. Tamaracks Resort started out with 6 cabins on state leased land, with various outbuildings, almost 17 acres of lakefront property, and nearly one half mile of shoreline. By the time the resort opened in 1929, there were 10 additional cabins, a log lodge building, (now known as Seeley cabin), a saddle shed, (now known as the Saddle Shed cabin), and a dock. The original log cabin was converted into a restaurant with maids’ quarters on the second floor as well as a several acre horse pasture. The additional cabins were built during the depression, and the pay was $1 per day for room, board and a pouch of tobacco. Each new cabin was named after the man whom built it. Most of the log furniture, some of which still remain in the cabins, was hand made from lodge pole pine trees found in the area.
Water was provided to the resort by a gasoline powered pump that sent the water from the lake up to a holding tank on a hill above the resort. It was then gravity fed down to the cabins. Heat and light were provided by kerosene until electricity was brought to Seeley Lake in the early 1950’s. For quite a while, the Tamaracks Resort had the only hot/cold running water, and was the only place for miles where you could have a hot bath.
A stay at the resort was usually two weeks. It included pack trips into what is now known as The Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, day rides and meals. The package cost was about $50 a week. The Resort also had ten Old Town Canoes, a few rowboats, and later a sailboat (complete with lessons) that were available to the guests. The Tamaracks Resort claimed to be the only dude ranch on a lake, and the owner’s enticed people from all over the country to reserve a rustic cabin retreat on the shores of Seeley Lake. The Northern Pacific Railroad agreed to print the first Tamaracks Resort brochure if they could put their logo on it. The brochure was distributed in all the railroad depots in the eastern United States and on many of the trains. Ninety percent of the resorts guests arrived by train from the east of the Mississippi. They were picked up at the Clearwater Junction by the resort staff.
The formal dining room, where guests ate all their meals, was an elegant affair. The tables were set with silver, china and crystal; the chef was first class, brought from the east by the Turners. Each table
had a beautiful view of the lake, and the large windows opened in the summer to allow the cool breeze to freshen the room. Refrigeration of food items in the summer was carried out to the ice house behind the main log cabin and all the cabins also had ice boxes. To stock these, men would hand saw huge chunks of ice out of the frozen lake, some weighing 200+ pounds, then load them onto a sleigh, which was used to haul the ice to all the cabins and the ice house. This was done in late January and early February, after the ice had been kept clean of snow for months, so they could get the hardest, cleanest ice.
Dances were held every Saturday night in the log lodge building. Guests, locals and even people from as far away as Missoula turned out for the weekly event. Music was provided by a local family in town, and from time to time, others would sit in and play the fiddle or the guitar.
As you can see, the history of The Tamaracks Resort is as rich and lively as the history of Montana itself. Old photographs like the ones you see reproduced here were collected from the photo albums of previous owners and families that have stayed here.
Even though the resort has seen many changes and owners, many former guests have returned with their children and grandchildren to the place where they spent many happy vacations.
"It is important to us, here at the Tamaracks Resort, to not lose our history.
When you arrive on the property, you will notice that the cabins are old, but once inside you will see that they are well maintained. Some of the original furniture is still being used, and it is in good working condition; we intend to keep it that way. You may also notice the original electric insulators are still on the trees. The original Tamaracks sign has been re-purposed and hung down at our Rental Shack. A small library of books owned by Henry Turner can still be found in some of the cabins.
These are some of the little things that make our property truly unique.
As we upgrade and remodel, preservation of character is at the heart of it."
~ Tamaracks Resort