The Sentinel Pine is a private estate in Bigfork, MT available for personal and professional gatherings. These accommodations are near Glacier National Park.

Sentinel Pine Home
boat on Swan Lake


Sentinel Pine History & Facts


boat dockThe Sentinel Pine is located near Glacier Park in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, where the forces of nature have worked for hundreds of millions of years to create some of the most majestic mountain ranges found anywhere in the world.


Swan Lake itself is approximately 9 miles long and nearly a mile wide, with depths of over 200 feet in certain areas. The property is at an altitude of approximately 3,000 feet, with the mountains surrounding it reaching nearly 9,000 feet in height.


This part of the Northern Rockies is the natural habitat of many different species of animals. Deer and turkeys frequently wander across our lawns, and if you move slowly you can sometimes get quite close to them. Elk, moose, otters, beavers, and foxes also ocassionally visit the Sentinel Pine. Many birds, including bald eagles and osprey, can often be seen overhead.


For hundreds of years, the Blackfeet, Flathead, Kootenai, and Pend’Oreille tribes regarded the Swan Lake area as hallowed hunting grounds. An early Kootenai settler first named the lake “Nasaquat”, which means “Swan Lake” in the Kootenai language.


Montana became a territory of the United States in 1803 following the Louisiana Purchase, and three years later Meriweather Lewis passed just south of the area on the epic Lewis and Clark expedition. One of the first white men to visit the lake was the Belgian Jesuit missionary Pierre de Smet, in 1863. He named it “Lac Hughes” in honor of his patron, the Bishop of New York, but the name did not stick. Montana attained its current borders and became a state in 1878. Even after statehood, most of the land in Montana continued to be owned by the United States government until the Homestead Act of 1893, which opened much of the land to private ownership.


On June 19, 1895, the federal government deeded today’s Sentinel Pine property as part of a total 13,940.91 acres to The State of Montana. In 1916, the property had its first private owner, who built the Main Lodge and Sentinel House. JL McLaughlin, a contractor from Great Falls, Montana, bought the property in 1944 as a vacation home, and he made most of the improvements to the property we enjoy today. McLaughlin also built much of the legendary Going-To-The-Sun Highway in Glacier Park, the Libby and Hungry Horse dams, the Trans-Alaskan Highway, and the road systems for Yellowstone.


The property was named for the massive 800-year-old Ponderosa pine overlooking the lake, a scene renowned by artists and photographers alike. The Sentinel Pine itself is believed to be one of the world’s oldest Ponderosa pines still standing.


JL McLaughlin and his descendants have owned and used the Sentinel Pine on a continuous basis for over 65 years, building and improving the property and facilities into what it is today. Over the years, the Sentinel Pine has hosted as guests several important political, military, and business leaders, as have its two local counterparts, the Kootenai Lodge and Six Mile Estates. Famed craftsmen and artists, including Charlie Russell (perhaps America's greatest Western artist) have upon occasion called Swan Lake their home.


The Sentinel Pine has a very rich and deep tradition. We welcome those who wish to share our vistas and experience our history by choosing us as your Swan Lake vacation rental.

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