Montana Places to Explore: Kerr Dam

By RACHEL SEIDENSTICKER

Kerr Dam is one of Montana’s best off-the-beaten-path places to explore, located five miles southwest of Polson along the Lower Flathead River.

It’s named after Frank Kerr, who was the president of the Montana Power Company in 1930 when they began construction. Construction on the project stalled for five year during the Great Depression. After MPC started the project again in 1936, it was ultimately finished and began operation in 1938.

The dam in now operated by PPL Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Kerr generates 194 megawatts and powers homes in the greater Mission Valley—about 147,000 to be exact. The tribes have the opportunity to buy the dam in 2015 for exclusive rights, but they already see over $9 million in annual revenue flow back into the tribes.

Getting an exquisite view of the dam, which is 541 feet long by 205 feet high of concrete, requires a walk down the 1,000-foot boardwalk to the vista point.

At the overlook you get a wonderful 180-degree view of downriver as well as watch a boater’s stream coming in from Flathead Lake upriver. Plus, the rush of the water over this manmade spectacle runs 54 feet higher than even Niagara Falls.

It’s a great place for a picnic, and the views are best in the late spring and early summer when the water is roaring.

After visiting the vista point and making the hike up, there is also the opportunity to drive down to the powerhouse near the bottom of the dam where you will find an English-style village, gorgeous grounds, a boat launch for the lower river, information about the dam at a visitor’s center, and restrooms. Tours are available but you should really call ahead to reserve a time.

To find the dam: Turn south at Main Street, which is the first stoplight coming in on Highway 93 from the west side of Flathead Lake into Polson. Follow Main and head west on 7th Avenue. This road eventually turns into Kerr Dam Road and you can just follow the signs from there.

 

Kerr Dam

43069 Kerr Dam Road

Polson, MT 59860

406-883-4450

 

Kerr Dam near Polson, one of Montana's great places to explore.

Kerr Dam near Polson, MT. Photo by JackieBourriague.

 

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This article is part of Rachel’s blog, Fatootsin Montana’s Dusty Byways.

byway [ˈbaɪˌweɪ] n

1. a secondary or side road, esp in the country

Fatootsin [‘fə tʊt sɪn] v

1. The art and science of traveling to a destination even when you are unsure of what that destination may be and the path that will get you there.