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The Best Last Place

The Cemetery | Area Statistics

The region of Western Montana known as "The Seeley Swan" consists of two scenic river valleys, the Clearwater and the Swan, and portions of two nationally-known wilderness areas, the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Mission Mountains Wilderness. The two valleys are flanked by high mountain ranges. Highway 83 leads through the area from Clearwater Junction at Highway 200 near the Blackfoot River north to Bigfork at Flathead Lake. (continued below)

It passes through the town of Seeley Lake in the Clearwater Valley, and rural communities in the Swan Valley which include Condon, Salmon Prairie and Swan Lake. The two north-south valleys are separated by the Flathead Divide near Lindbergh Lake. Waters south of this divide flow through the Clearwater Valley to the Blackfoot River; waters north of the divide flow through the Swan Valley to Flathead Lake. The area could be described as rural, remote and isolated, yet cities are close by, including Missoula, Helena, Great Falls, and Kalispell.

Though relatively small, the Seeley Swan is one of the fastest growing areas in Montana where its small town lifestyles combined with an outdoor paradise are attracting young and old alike. More than 2000 people live in the Seeley Lake area and more than 800 people live near Condon, with approximately another 300 people living near Swan Lake. Combining the populations, you find a total of more than 3,000 people who live in the two valleys year round. The population more than doubles in the summer months when part-time residents return to their summer homes and visitors flock to area lodges, resorts and campgrounds.

Forests cover most of the narrow river-botoom and foothills areas. Private land held by small landowners makes up only 10% of the land mass in the Clearwater Valley surrounding Seeley Lake, and less than 20% in the Swan Valley. Private timber companies (Plum Creek Timber Company the most notable) and the Forest Service own the rest.

The valleys are dotted with lakes including countless ponds and several large lakes that are popular recreation areas. If you drive through the valley from south to north you'll pass Salmon Lake, Seeley Lake, Lake Inex Lake Alva, Rainy Lake and Summit Lake in the Clearwater Valley. Continuing over the divide into the Swan Valley you'll find Lindbergh Lake, Holland Lake and Swan Lake.

The region's riparian areas are home to wildlife including bald eagles, grizzly bears and wolves. The beautiful lakes, forests, wildlife, birds and fish draw many people to this area. These include people who work in the wood-products industry, people involved in tourism-related businesses, part-time residents who maintain summer homes in the area, many retirees, and dozens of self-employed persons. Because of abundant natural resources, the area caters to visitors. Six developed campgrounds are located on lakes in the Clearwater Valley alone.

The Cemetery

It's for real! The first cemetery in the Seeley Swan has been dubbed "The Best Last Place." Many have considered this to be The Best Last Place for the living and now those who go beyond us can enjoy it too. The cemetery (under construction and unoccupied at this writing) is located just south of Salmon Lake along the east side of Highway 83.

General Area Statistical Information


Mean winter temperatures are 15-20 degrees F.
Mean summer temperature is 78 degrees F.
High summer temperature is 90 degrees F.
Lowest winter temperature is -40 degrees F.


Rainfall is 10 inches average
Valley Snowfall is 140 inches average
Total precipitation is 20 inches average


Valley floor average 4000 feet.
Holland Peak (Swan Range) is 9,365 feet
McDonald Peak (Mission Range) is 9,865 feet
Summit Lake is 4300 feet

Area: unincorporated communities in Missoula County; 60 miles to Missoula


Seeley Lake (year round) approx. 1,700
Seeley Lake (summer) 4,000-plus
Condon/Swan Valley 800

Elementary Schools

Seeley Lake: 210 students
Swan Valley (Condon): 96 students
Salmon Prairie: 13 students
Ovando: 30 students
Potomac: 126 students
Sunset Hill: 1 student

High School

Seeley-Swan High School: 140 students

Land Mass Ownership

40% U.S. Forest Service
35% Plum Creek Lumber Co.
15% State of Montana
10% Private Land