Glacier Park Boat Company dates back to 1938, when Mr. Arthur J. Burch, a banker in Kalispell, purchased the contract to provide tour boat services in Glacier National Park from J.W. Swanson. Captain Swanson was a prolific boat builder on Flathead Lake and was one of the first to build and operate boats for transportation and scenic cruises on the lakes in Glacier National Park. He operated his own boat concession and provided boats and assistance for the Glacier Park Hotel Company, the Great Northern Railway’s tourism subsidiary in the park, and the Glacier Park Transport Company on Lake McDonald.
This historic tour boat company, which stemmed from Captain Swanson’s masterfully built tour boats, has remained in the Burch family for more than 75 years. Glacier Park Boat Company, while going through a series of evolutions, has now been passed on to the third generation of the Burch family to keep alive the long tradition of exceptional visitor services on historic tour boats in Glacier National Park.
1. St Mary lake at Rising Sun:
Immense views and superb photo opportunities beckon from this sparkling jewel in Glacier National Park’s crown.
The tour begins at the Rising Sun boat dock, centrally located on St. Mary Lake, approximately five miles from Glacier National Park’s east entrance at the town of St. Mary.
Conveniently accessible right off of the Going-to-the-Sun road, and offering vastly different views on the water not visible from the road, the boat will take you on a close drive-by of the famed Wild Goose Island and provides epic, 360 degree views of the surrounding peaks. You’ll see Sexton Glacier, tiny islands, the remnants of Great Northern Railway President Louis Hill’s private cabin, and brightly colored mountainsides. It also allows for a variety of easy and moderate hiking opportunities from the head of the lake.
2. Lake McDonald
Tranquil views of Glacier National Park’s west side await you on this scenic, hour long boat tour.
The majesty of the Continental Divide and the tranquility of the emerald-hued lake are a must-see as you cruise along Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park . Climb aboard the historic vessel, DeSmet, the flagship vessel in our wooden boat fleet from the shore below the Lake McDonald Lodge.
3. Many Glacier
Many Glacier is named for its “many glaciers” and is an enchanting valley full of wildlife, hiking and spectacular scenery.
Come see the glaciers in this magical valley from the seats of our two historic wooden boats — Chief Two Guns on Swiftcurrent Lake and Morning Eagle on Lake Josephine. Enjoy both lakes via a small hike linking the two boats in this two-part tour. The tour begins on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake, below the expansive Many Glacier Hotel. Take the Chief Two Guns across Swiftcurrent Lake, dock, disembark and walk 0.2 mile (over a steep hill) to the shores of Lake Josephine and board the Morning Eagle. Cruise to the head of Lake Josephine where you can either disembark and go on a guided or self-guided hike, or remain on the boat to return back across both lakes to the Many Glacier Hotel.
4. Two Medicine
Explore Glacier National Park’s hidden gem in the Two Medicine valley with a tour on Two Medicine Lake.
Climb aboard the charming, historic vessel, Sinopah, the oldest wooden boat in our fleet, and enjoy all this “secret” valley offers. Relax and take in the scenery while learning about the rich Blackfeet tribal history surrounding the Two Medicine area. Upon docking on the upper west shore of the lake you can choose to remain on the boat or disembark and hike on your own or with a naturalist to Twin Falls and catch a later return boat.