Lake McDonald Boat Tour Sunset Cruise

April 20, 2018/Jonathan Rundle/1 Comment

My first night in the park, I’ve signed up for a Lake McDonald Boat Tour Sunset Cruise.

First things first, know that the sunset cruise is BYOB. I thought the ticket agent was pulling my leg when he told me that. As much as I would’ve enjoyed a cold beverage, I decided to pass until I’m done motorcycling for the day and back in the town of Whitefish.

Anyway, let’s set sail for a tour of Glacier National Park’s Lake McDonald!

About the DeSmet

Our boat, the 56-foot DeSmet, is one of three boats operated by the Glacier Park Boat Company that have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The DeSmet’s sister boats have been moving passengers in the park since 1926. The DeSmet entered service a few years later in 1930.

DeSmet lake mcdonald boat tourDeSmet lake mcdonald boat tour

On Lake McDonald

The boarding of the boat was highly entertaining as this was one of the last trips of the season.

Many of the young crew members are on their way back home to go back to school (or perhaps to a different seasonal job) after tonight’s tour. One of the hands actually donned a life vest and jumped in the water as part of the safety checks (and to celebrate his final trip) before we departed.

Lake Mcdonald boat tour desmetLake Mcdonald boat tour desmet

Even though the interior of the little DeSmet is lovely, the place to be tonight is outside.

That goes for everyone on and off this boat. The gentleman in the next photo has found a tranquil spot on the remote west side of the lake to read his book.

Lake McDonald

Watching the sunset

Back on the boat, all eyes are on the smoky sunset before it dips below the hills.

lake mcdonald selfieSun over Lake McdonaldLake Mcdonald sunset

With everyone outside on the decks, it was nice to have the cabin to myself for a photo out the window.

Lake Mcdonald sunset boat tour

2017 Glacier National Park Fires

The culprit for all the smoke during this trip is the large “Sprague Fire.” This fire began in early August and is very active here in early September. The fire would go on to rage the rest of the summer and into early fall.

The fire eventually claimed the Sperry Chalet, a structure on the historic registry and reachable only on foot. The park service will rebuild the chalet.

Lake Mcdonald boat tour desmet

I was in awe of the fire as I had never seen actual flame from a forest fire before.

Forest fires in Glacier National Park

Fire crews were working on some level of containment, while not actually trying to extinguish it completely.

In National Parks like Glacier, fires are allowed to burn naturally as long as they do not threaten too much infrastructure or harm human life. The Park Service sees these fires as key to keeping the forest ecosystem healthy. Additionally, if fires are continually put out, it allows natural fuel to build up making the next fire even stronger and more difficult to contain.

Forest fires in Glacier National ParkForest fires in Glacier National Park

Back on land

Take the time to walk the shores of Lake McDonald. While the sky is very smoky, the waters are still and ever clear. I enjoy the night as long as I can, even knowing my ride home will be dark and cold.

Lake Mcdonald Glacier National ParkLake Mcdonald rock stacking

About the Lake McDonald Boat Tour

The Lake McDonald Boat Tour Sunset Cruise should be booked in advance in peak times. Walk through or around Lake McDonald Lodge to the boat dock. There is a ticket booth right there on the dock.

If sunsets aren’t your thing (what!?) the Glacier Park Boat Company has many other times available. They’ve run boat tours throughout Glacier’s lakes since 1938, so trust that they know what they’re doing.

Thanks for joining me on the cruise! Have you been on a boat tour I should check out? Have you toured other lakes in Glacier? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Comments (1)

  • JoWalsh . April 20, 2018 . Reply

    As always ..I love your travels . Thanks for the boat trip

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Lake McDonald Boat Tour Sunset Cruise

Lake McDonald, Montana 59936, USA