Why Visit Montana’s Colorful Lake MacDonald Pebbles
Nestled in Montana’s majestic Glacier National Park is Lake McDonald. Lake McDonald is the largest lake in the national park which formed as a result of a combination of glacial activity and erosion. It is famous – not only for its beautiful setting – but also for its eye-catching colorful pebbles and rocks in the lake and along the shores.
The Lake McDonald Valley is something of a hub of activity for the west side of Glacier National Park. Here, one can marvel at the handiwork of the huge glaciers that once carved their way through these mighty valleys. Today, the area around Lake McDonald is full of hiking trails, biodiversity, historic cabins and the grand Lake McDonald Lodge.
What to know about Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald is located on the west side of the Continental Divide and is a great place to relax. It is an alpine lake in Glacier National Park and almost looks like a fjord. It is home to many native species of trout and other game fish, including rainbow trout, arctic char, Lake Superior whitefish, cutthroat trout, sockeye salmon, and suckers.
- Fishing: No need for a fishing license in the national park
- Length: 10 miles (16 km)
- Lenght: 1 mile (1.6 km)
- Depth: 472 feet or 130 meters deep
It is surrounded by dense coniferous forests and grizzly bears, black bears, moose and mule deer can be found along its shores. Anyone can swim in Lake McDonald – although it’s likely to be a bit chilly and chilly for most of the year. The only place families can swim is in Glacier National Park at Lake McDonald on the southwest shore.
- Bathing: On the southwest shore of Lake McDonald
The colorful pebbles of Lake McDonald
One of the most striking features of Lake McDonald (and some other lakes in the area) is the large number of colorful rocks and pebbles laid just below the water’s surface and along the shores of the lake. These rocks are brown, dark red, green, blue and other colors.
- Why are they colored: Due to the iron content
- Green: Indicates that the rock has less iron formed in deep water
- Red: Formed in shallow water
The rocks of Lake McDonald are colored due to their iron content. When they formed in the eons of the past, they were broken down into small boulders and washed into the lake. Greenstones formed in deep water and therefore have less iron.
The bright red rocks were deposited in a shallow ocean where iron was oxidized by air through tidal exposure. Pebbles with old ripple marks or old mud crack lines can also be found.
Since Lake McDonald is part of a national park, it is protected by law. This means that visitors are not allowed to remove anything from the national park – nor to take the pebbles from Lake McDonald. It is prohibited to remove boulders from Lake McDonald for recreational or educational purposes.
Accommodation – Stay at Lake McDonald Lodge
Lake McDonald Lodge is the largest lodging facility on the lake (lakeside lodging options are otherwise limited). It was built between 1913 and 1914 to resemble a rustic hunting lodge with Swiss-influenced architecture.
The lodge offers a variety of activities to do in the area, including red bus tours, evening ranger programs, horseback riding, and boat trips.
- Rooms: 82 Rooms
- To eat: The Russell’s Fireside Dining Room inside the Lodge
- Bar: Lucke’s living room in the lodge
- Menu: Buffet breakfast and full lunch and dinner menus
This is the perfect place to relax and unwind, guests can stretch out in front of the huge fireplace before retiring to their cozy rustic bedrooms. Prices range from $121.00 for their Snyder Room with Shared Bath to over $500 for their Grand Deluxe Cabin Suite.
- Snyder Room: $121.00 to $141.00
- Cobb House Suite: $636.00 to $656.00
- Standard Lodge Room: $239.00 to $269.00
- Large Deluxe Cabin: $506.00 to $526.00
Spend the morning kayaking or canoeing on the lake, admiring the many colorful pebbles of Lake McDonald. If one needs outdoor gear, there is a camping store about 300 yards from the main lodge – there are groceries for campers and other useful items one can forgot to pack.