Flathead National Forest Backcountry Administrative Facilities Historic District
Three ranger district headquarter compounds, thirteen guard stations, three airfields, and the trails and phone lines that connect them make up this historic district, located in some of Montana’s wildest country. The Forest Service became an independent agency in 1905 and immediately prioritized building trails and communication networks to facilitate firefighting and timber sales in the Flathead. Construction began on the South Fork Trail that same year. The forest’s first phone line was installed by 1908, linking the supervisor’s office in Kalispell with the Coram guard station. The Big Burn of 1910 reinforced the need for communication and transportation. By 1941, over 350 miles of trails, many built by the Civilian Conservation Corps—a New Deal public works program—connected backcountry stations. An extensive system of single-wire phone line attached to trees throughout the forest supported communication. Forty-five miles of this ground-return telephone line remains in service. In the early years, rangers built their own log cabins using local materials, their own time, and varying levels of skill. Later, Region One recommended standard designs for cabins and other log structures, including outhouses, barns, corrals, bunkhouses, and sheds. In the 1920s, increasing anxiety over urbanization and industrialization led Americans to value forests as wilderness to be protected. Portions of the Flathead National Forest were designated as primitive areas in 1931, “untrammeled wilderness set aside for their wild life and for the more hardy and zealous” outdoor enthusiasts. Passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act further ensured that development within the Flathead National Forest backcountry remains minimal.