The Frye's caretake Lindbergh Lake
Dan and Barb Frye volunteered
to fix up Lindbergh Lake Campground
Photo & Story
by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
August 20, 1998
Improvements at the Lindbergh Lake Campground south of Condon this year are a direct result of the efforts of two local residents who care so much about the campground that they offered to spend their free time this summer working there.
Dan and Barb Frye of Salmon Prairie are caretakers at the popular recreation site this summer.
"We just said, 'If you'll let us stay here, we'll fix it up," Barb Frye explained recently. The Frye's, who have worked as the custodians at the Swan Valley Elementary School for 18 years, had no problem convincing the Forest Service that they could do the job. The Swan Lake Ranger District readily agreed to sign them up as volunteer Campground Hoststhe first ever at the dispersed camping area and day use facility.
Lindbergh Lake homeowners and the Swan Ecosystem Center at Condon were also impressed with a proposal the Frye's made to upgrade facilities to protect resources at the lake. The two groups have pitched in financially to help alleviate some of the caretakers' expenses.
In recent years, resources at the Lindbergh Lake Campground had begun to deteriorate for several reasons, including increased use, cutbacks in Forest Service funding, and vandalism. Having a caretaker at the site this summer has made a difference.
"They've done a good job," Remy Pochelon, resource forester at the Swan Lake Ranger District in Bigfork said recently. "They have definitely helped manage the social aspects of the site."
Those social aspects in the past included keggars and parties. However, the campground is now patrolled on a regular basis by area deputies and game wardens. According to the Frye's, a different crowd of people are enjoying the site this year. "It's families and older people," Barb said. "I think it's turning into what it should bea place for families to come and have fun."
The Frye's have enjoyed the Lindbergh Lake campground for many years, and when they saw it begin to deteriorate as a result of things like parking in wet areas, litter, and dumping of trash, they decided to take action.
Their proposal to the Forest Service and local non-profit groups was to restore camping sites at the upper campground to reduce the fire hazard in those areas, and to define parking areas at the lakeside campground so that campers, trailers and tents would fit more comfortably alongside the numerous vehicles and boat trailers that vie for space near the boat launch. Their plan has worked. Instead of haphazard parking, visitors now follow signs to separate parking and camping areas.
First-time campers are quick to consult the Frye's for advice on fishing, hiking and boating. A frequently asked question is, "Where do we pay?"
The Frye's enjoy a silent chuckle when they hear that question. Camping at Lindbergh Lake is still free, and likely will remain so for many years to come. The recreation area has no garbage service and no developed water, so the Forest Service will not charge for camping there.
"I don't think we need to make everything a fee site," Remy Pochelon said. However, the old (and badly in need of repair) boat launch and toilet facilities will probably be replaced in the next few years, he said. The camping area will remain the same size, he explained, and no new services will be added. Individuals will continue to be responsible for packing their own garbage out of the area, and supplying their own drinking water.
Barb Frye is convinced that as long as caretakers keep the campground clean, campers will follow suit and clean up after themselves. "We have camped other places, and generally we've found that if a campground is clean to start with, campers will leave it that way. If you kind of show people the way, most people will follow."
The Frye's help manage three camping areas in the Upper Swan Valley. Besides the Lindbergh Lake Campground, they also look after two camping sites on the Swan River at the Lindbergh Lake Road, and also a dispersed camping area near the river at the Pine Ridge Road. Their duties this year, in addition to initial work done to open old campsites, clear brush, and level and define the new parking areas, includes talking to people about campground rules, recreation opportunities and litter.
"We go around every night and visit with people about the bears, and keeping their food and garbage picked up," Barb explained. They are also frequently consulted about fishing and recreation opportunities. The lake is popular among water skiers, canoeists and kayakers in July and August. At other times, fishermen and hikers are more numerous.
The Frye's like the idea that the campground resources, which include roughly 14 car camping sites and about a half dozen tent areas, will be protected, but undeveloped.
"This place should stay just the way it is, only neat and clean," Barb Frye said. "It's a rustic camping area for those who don't mind no water, no electricity, no garbage service," she said, then added, "In my old age I want something to stay as I remember it," she laughed. "Local people need to be involved with keeping things in the community the way they want them to be. This is a beautiful place, but it won't stay that way unless we help."
About Lindbergh Lake
Lindbergh Lake is described as a "long (4 miles), deep (125 feet), and narrow (1/8 to 1/2 mile)" lake by Dick Konizeski, author of the Montanan's Fishing Guide.
The lake is flanked along its east shore by dozens of private summer and resort homes. Plum Creek Timber Company owns most of the west shore. Forest Service land is located at the north (campground) and south (Crystal Lake trailhead) ends.
To reach the Lindbergh Lake Campground, take the Lindbergh Lake Road west from Highway 83 approximately 3-1/2 miles (take the right fork at the Wye, otherwise you'll end up on the "summer home" road). Follow the Forest Service signs to the campground. The road is rough, but passable.
Campground facilities include an aging boat launch, outhouse toilets, a few picnic tables, and several small but level areas for camping.
The Lindbergh Lake Campground is a dispersed site with no garbage service, developed drinking water or developed swimming beach. It is managed by the Flathead National Forest, Swan Lake Ranger District, at Bigfork.