History & FAQs
HISTORY OF THE IZAAK WALTON
The Izaak Walton Inn was built next to the railroad yard in 1939 for the use of railroad service personnel. It was also intended to serve as an entrance to Glacier National Park between East Glacier and West Glacier, but this plan never materialized. As a result, Essex has a hotel that seems disproportionate to its modest needs.
In recent years tourists have discovered The Izaak Walton Inn, experienced its hospitality, and the warmth of the hotel, enjoyed the railroad ambiance, participated in the summer and winter activities available in the serene surroundings, and judged it one of Montana’s best kept recreational secrets.
According to Francis June, Schultz convinced Great Northern officials in St. Paul that names should be changed to better reflect the nature of the area in which the Blackfeet had roamed. Consequently, the present day Walton Ranger Station was listed on the map data in the early nineteen thirties as the Izaak Walton Ranger Station and the town of Essex Montana was renamed Walton. With the precedent set it was only logical to name the hotel erected in Walton in 1939, The Izaak Walton Inn.
The hotel was built not only to meet the needs of railroad personnel, but was also designed to be a resort at the proposed new entrance to Glacier Park. Plans to open Glacier Park between east and west Glacier were postponed due to WWII and after the war, interest in running a road into the Park Creek area had disappeared and all that remained was the Inn between the two park entrances.
The Izaak Walton Inn has remained the “Inn Between”, and through the years has found its own delightful niche in a million acres of wilderness.
….The fact is the Great Northern Railroad did not build a hotel in Essex. On April 28, 1939 the Great Northern Railroad and the Addison Miller Company entered into a contract that would allow Addison Miller to build and operate a hotel and lunchroom on railroad land at Walton, the contract was for 12 1/2 years from June 01, 1939 to December 01, 1951.
The Izaak Walton was completed at a cost of $40,000.00 and was to be formally opened November 15 1939. “Modern in every detail”, the two and a half story 36 by 114 foot structure boasted 29 rooms, ten bathrooms, a spacious lobby, dining room, kitchen with a two ton cook stove, drying room, store room, and general store.
It took twelve carpenters three months to complete. Much of the interior and exterior of the h
otel remains the same today. In spite of losses, the Addison Miller company
continued to own the hotel beyond the termination date of their contract with the Great Northern Railway. Ed Wellman bought the hotel from the Addison Miller company for $5,000.00 and sold it to Harry Stowell in 1965. In 1968 George A. Walker bought the hotel and Sid and Millie Goodrich bought it in 1973.
Larry and Linda Vielleux expanded services started by the Goodrich’s. The emphasis was on a comfortable brush with the past in which cross country skiers, hikers,and railroad fans all over the country and Canada can experience in the million acres of wilderness in which the Izaak Walton stands.
The Kelly’s are continuing to maintain the quality and ambiance that guests and Railfans of the Izaak Walton Inn have become accustomed to.
Excerpts from Gail Shay Atkinson & Jim Atkinson ’s
“A History of the Izaak Walton Inn and Essex Montana”
….Essex, Montana is a small railroad town located 60 miles east of Kalispell Montana, and bordering Glacier National Park and the Great Bear Wilderness Area. The dominant feature of the town is the railroad yard with its many tracks. There helper engines idle constantly, standing ready to assist freight trains over the Continental Divide at the summit of Marias Pass. Burlington Northern now owns what was once J. J. Hills Great Northern Railway that ran from St. Paul Minnesota to Seattle Washington.
It is not known who named the Izaak Walton in but Francis June, a railroad telegraph operator who moved to Essex in 1914, claimed that a man named James Willard Schultz had a lot to do with the naming and renaming of many locations along the Great Northern Railway in Montana. Schultz was an author who lived with and fought beside the fierce Blackfeet nation in its last glorious days before being confined to a reservation just east of Glacier National Park. He wrote 37 books about his life with the Indians and gained much celebrity from them.
Q. How far to each entrance to the park?
It is 25 miles to West Glacier (driving time approx. 30 minutes). It is 28 miles to East Glacier (driving time approx. 30 minutes), going over the continental divide at Marias Pass.
Q. How many days do you think I need to see the park?
At least three days to one week.
Q. Are there guest laundry facilities?
Yes, coin operated washers and dryers are located in the annex building across from the lodge. Quarters can be purchased at the front desk. Soap, bleach, and fabric softener also available for purchase in the laundry room. Laundry Room hours are 7am – 9pm.
Q. Is hiking available without having to drive from the Izaak?
Yes. There are some amazing hikes in the Great Bear Wilderness access to Glacier National Park is 1/4 mile away at Walton Ranger station which is part of the Bob Marshall Wildness. The most popular hikes are Marion Lake and Scalplock Lookout. In addition all of our XC ski trails make wonderful scenic hiking adventures, while staying close to the inn. Please visit the Forest Service's website for more detail.
Q. Is there a store nearby?
We have a full service restaurant, snacks, chips and gum are available for purchase at the front desk. Essex proper has limited services, other than the hotel. There is a small convenience store one mile west of the Inn on HWY2 at the Half-Way Cafe and The Snow Slip Cafe is located 10 miles on HWY2 near Marias Pass.
Q. Is there cell phone coverage?
There is no cell service in Essex. Cell service is severely limited in Glacier National Park. Phone cards are available for purchase at the front desk and payphones are located in both hotel entrances.
Q. Is there Internet available?
Yes! We have free wireless internet located downstairs in our Flagstop Bar.
Q. How do I get to the hotel after I get off the train? Will there be someone there?
Yes. When you book your reservation, we will ask you how you are arriving. If by Amtrak, we will arrange our courtesy van to greet you at the platform, no matter what time the train arrives.
Q. Amtrak tells me that Essex is not a baggage stop, what if I want to bring my skis or large luggage?
The Amtrak conductors are quite familiar with Essex Montana and the Izaak Walton Inn, bring whatever you like, they will accommodate your bags.
Q. Is there indoor entertainment?
Yes. We have a revolving library of books in our lobby, several board games, decks of cards, a ping pong table, pool table, and puzzles for loads of family fun.
Q. How far it is to town?
Columbia Falls is the closest city with substantial services year `round. It is 45 minutes west of Essex. West Glacier has services available only during the summer season. If you come by Amtrak, car rentals are available at the front desk. If you plan on renting a car, please reserve at least two weeks in advance. Call our front deak at 406.888-5700.
Q. Handicap accessible?
The first floor offers four guest rooms called the Great Northern rooms and our Dining Car restaurant is available via chair lift. Please ask the front desk for assistance when arriving.
Q. Is the Izaak a good location for a business retreat?
Yes. The Izaak Walton is an ideal location for a business retreat. We can accommodate business meetings up to 50 people in our signal meeting room.
Q. Is there a pub or bar?
Yes. Flagstop Bar is an excellent place to see train memorabilia and you should check it out.