Kintla Lake, Montana, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - West - Montana - Glacier Country -

One of the most remote campgrounds that can be reached by car in Glacier National Park graces the shore of Kintla Lake. Beautiful Kintla Lake lies in the far northwest corner of the sprawling park, about 40 miles north of the park’s west entrance and south of the Canadian border. When park brochures state that the lake can be reached by road, they usually add the caveat that access is by 16 miles of rough road; it will probably take an SUV with a higher clearance to reach the lake. For this reason the small campground is seldom full. Those reaching the end of the bumpy, narrow road are rewarded with views on the pristine 1700-acre lake surrounded by picturesque mountain peaks. Kintla Lake is the fourth-largest lake in Glacier National Park.

Kintla Lake is designated a ‘no-motors’ lake, so the solitude remains unbroken. Fishermen often arrive here with canoes or kayaks, prepared to fly-fish for the cutthroat trout the lake contains. Float-tube use is quickly ruled out as a viable long-term fishing solution, because the water remains very cold and soon becomes uncomfortable. A small wooden bridge crossing a brook also provides the perfect spot for fishing from shore. The lake also contains whitefish. Because there is low fishing pressure in this remote location, the trout and whitefish are eager to take the bait offered, making this a rewarding place for angling. Some hardy souls may try swimming in the lake, but the low water temperature quickly discourages most bathers. Instead, campers and day visitors are content to enjoy the views over the lake filtered through the many trees.

Kintla Lake Campground is not recommended for RVs or trailers due to the narrow, winding road required to access it. The camping area offers potable water from a hand pump during the summer season, and pit toilets are located nearby. The area around the lake has many short trails and is on the path of some long and strenuous trails used by those who enjoy overnight hikes. Because the area holds many black bears and grizzly bears, ‘bear poles’ for hoisting packs and foodstuffs out of their reach are located along all of the trails.

One of the more strenuous trails passing along the shore of Kintla Lake is the Boulder Pass Trail. This 20-mile trek leads to Boulder Pass and beyond, and requires camping overnight at Upper Kintla Lake in the small campground there. This hike requires considerable stamina as the trail climbs nearly 3500 feet in elevation. Beautiful but somewhat extreme, the Boulder Pass Trail is not for amateur hikers. Information regarding this trail and others in the area can be obtained from the Ranger Station in Polebridge, 16 miles down the road from the lake.

The tiny settlement of Polebridge serves as hub for the Polerbidge-Northfork region of Glacier National Park. From here, visitors may choose more accessible Bowman Lake where camping is available and numerous trails spider out in all directions. The tiny town of Polebridge has attracted a following among Glacier fans with the Polebridge Mercantile as its center. This historic little store offers a variety of excellent home-baked goodies featuring the native huckleberries that grow wild within the park. The huckleberry bearclaws are a real treat. The store also sells camping supplies. Next door, a small saloon and cafe offer meals and entertainment in the form of a ‘porch band’ on several occasions over the summer. Although not clear from most maps, Polebridge is actually outside of Glacier National Park on the west side and serves as an entry portal.

Polebridge also offers rustic cabin rentals, with other lodgings nearby. There are several bed-and-breakfasts and guest ranches in the area that serve those who would like a more substantial roof over their heads at night while they sight-see at Kintla and Bowman Lakes during the day. Two ‘main’ roads serve Polebridge: the Outside North Fork Road on the west side of the North Fork of the Flathead River and the Inside Northfork Road on the east. The Outside Road is a more modern road, maintained as an out-of-park road and a bit wider and smoother than the road leading to Kintla Lake.

The Outside North Fork Road leads through scenic meadows with lovely views of the Livingston Range, dotted with historic cabins and small ranch holdings. Horseback outfitters in the area can arrange for horseback rides into the back country and are often the best option for seeing wildlife. Moose, bear, deer, wolves and other animals can be seen. The Inside Northfork Road is more rustic and the only way to get to Bowman Lake, Quartz Creek Campground, and Logging Creek Campground. This is the narrow road that ends at Kintla Lake.

Because Kintla Lake is near the western edge of Glacier National Park, locations for downhill skiing and other winter sports can be located not far from Kintla Lake. The Inside Northfork Road may not be passable in winter, and the campground closes completely from November to May. The road, sometimes called Kintla Lake Road north of Polebridge, is listed as closed in winter. Other locations in Glacier are still accessible but services such as lodgings within the park are all closed for the winter. The trails and unplowed roads are still favorites for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

The largest town of any size is Columbia Falls, about 50 miles from Kintla Lake. The Columbia Falls area and nearby Whitefish are popular areas for seasonal homes and vacation getaway cabins. Real estate in the area is often available, and a few properties may be found along Outside Northfork Road. Those with a true love of Glacier National Park and the rugged landscapes of the area are often eager to find real estate here where they can live at least part of the year. If you dream of snowy mountain ranges in the winter and trekking the backcountry for miles in summer, the area near Kintla Lake is for you. Come spend a week or two exploring the area and the trails. Wet a line in Kintla Lake and catch the wily cutthroat trout. Become one with the wilderness – but bring those modern conveniences such as binoculars, camera and a good pair of hiking boots.

Things to do at Kintla Lake

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Tubing
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Cabin Rentals
  • Hiking
  • Downhill Skiing
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • National Park

Fish species found at Kintla Lake

  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Trout
  • Whitefish

Kintla Lake Photo Gallery

Kintla Lake Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 1,698 acres

Shoreline Length: 13 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 4,008 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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