Mark and Debi Rolfing owned the Kootenai Lodge from 1990 until 2005 when they handed the restoration of this historic lake retreat over to the Milhous Group.

The Kootenai Lodge has been a shining star in the history of the Swan Lake area and the focus of dozens of articles over the years in local, state and national publications. Here are excerpts from some of these stories that help paint a picture of this lovely place.

The Missoulian
Sacred ground: Proposed condo development threatens historic Kootenai Lodge at Swan Lake, a treasured retreat for more than a century

"Sacred Ground" Kootenai Lodge- Missoulian May 22, 2005 cover story

Flathead Living
by Kay Bjork, Fall 2004
The Storybook Place

"The Storybook Place" - Flathead Living magazine cover story Fall 2004 (PDF)

Montana Living
By Kay Bjork, Autumn 2000
"From Copper Kings to Cradles" -Montana Living magazine Autumn 2000 cover story (PDF)

"She knows now that there is something profound here, something that drew in the Native Americans, the early homesteaders and Montana's copper kings.

Debi thinks it is the land's healing touch - something about the warm embrace of golden sunlight; a full moon spilling its light over a glossy Swan Lake; and the lullaby of the gentle waves; which soothe newborn babies beginning their lives in this spirit place known as Kootenai Lodge."

The Daily Inter Lake
By Jo Ann Speelman, November 21, 1999
Back to its Old Self 

"Once again celebrities from vice presidents to sports figures are coming to Kootenai Lodge, walking in the footsteps of artist Charles Russell, John D. Rockefeller, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, pilot Charles Lindbergh and others. The historic 47 acres and 24 buildings at the north end of Swan Lake have returned to family ownership. Mark and Debi Rolfing rescued the property from a bankruptcy sale 10 years ago and have the means and commitment to restore and rejuvenate it."

 … "We didn't count on falling in love with the Kootenai Lodge," Debi said. "But we have, and we so appreciate the solitude, the peace, the healing we and others experience here. It's a great retreat, a getaway," she said.

Kootenai Lodge a first home for newborns

"Mark and Debi Rolfing have made Kootenai Lodge on Swan Lake a "cradle care" home for newborn babies awaiting adoption... symbol of the foster-care work is a beaded leather cradle board from Kootenai elder Agnes Kenmille. 

The Pablo woman, whose Native American name is Oshanee, blessed the lodge compound seven years ago, and the gift of her handmade cradle board was a prophecy for the future of Kootenai Lodge."

Cowboys and Indians
By Elizabeth Clair Flood, Winter 1995
Living out West 

"As others had done in the past, we dressed for dinner and enjoyed a gourmet meal on a long, grand rustic table in the main lodge. We lit a fire in the fireplace and played the old Steinway piano underneath the animal heads. We toasted the copper kings with champagne and made the traditional toast to "sunny skies." For a moment, we lost ourselves in Kelley and Evans' elegant wilderness."

Kalispell News

By Lew Bain, June 2, 1995
The Way We Were

"Hardworking folks who cherish dreams of enjoying carefree summers in a beautifully forested lakeshore hideaway, complete with the luxuries of maids, servants, chauffeurs, guides and taste thrills of magnificent dinners would find the gala Kelly and Evans Kootenai Lodge a paradise."

Log Homes Illustrated
October/November 1995
Swan Song

"In the 1920s, Kootenai Lodge in Montana was a private resort of over 2,400 acres, built on the lines of a "great camp" in upstate New York. Today, it is a private residence. Its owners continue a restoration process designed to return the Lodge to its former glory."

Big Sky Journal
By Judy Clayton Cornell, Summer 1994
Kootenai Lodge 

"Hewn from the dark wood of Montana history, painstakingly restored to its original elegance, Kootenai Lodge on the shore of Swan Lake is widely regarded as the state's finest example of rustic log architecture."

Country Home 
By Candace Ord Manroe, June 1993
Big Sky Style 

"Debi, Kootenai's real savior, didn't have designs on the place as an income property… instead she treasures it for what it is: a testament to an earlier, nearly lost way of life, in which nature is a force to be respected, not conquered, and in which handcraftsmanship is seen as an extension of nature … the restoration of Kootenai Lodge is about more than style: It's about spirit."

Ski Magazine
By Susan McCoy, June 1982

"Thank you for the opportunity to photograph a portion of our upcoming fashion editorials at the Kootenai Lodge. It is a truly magnificent setting - the marvelous rustic architecture, the grounds, the river and the lake and all the state of the art restorations make this a fantasy retreat."

Bigfork Eagle
By Kay Bjork, 1991
Keeping Kootenai time in a different era

"The Kootenai Lodge is remembered for its grandeur and gracious living. But for Elizabeth Evans Stadler it was quite simply "a place where we used the lake and outdoors. It was a place where, "…we spent happy and wonderful years."

American Log Homes
A book authored by Arthur Thiede and Cindy Teipner in 1986
Kootenai Lodge

"Though remote, the lodge was never a lonely retreat. Such notable personalities as John D. Rockefeller, Charles Lindbergh and Will Rogers stayed at the lodge, adding their charisma to its already irresistible charm."

Western World 
March 1985 
Historic Lodge Goes "Members Only"

"Its storybook setting is thirty-seven miles south of Glacier National Park and west of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in the heart of what is believed to be the largest premier wilderness area in the continental United States."

Great Falls Tribune 
By Paul Fugleberg, October 14, 1984
Past, present meet in Kootenai Lodge Club 

"Some folks tell us it's a time capsule, a window to the past, that driving through the stone-framed gateway is like passing through a time tunnel to yesteryear, a very special yesteryear at that." "Speaking was Janny Haiges, Kootenai Lodge Club membership director. She absolutely beamed with delight …"

By Evelyn King, September 11, 1983
A Waldorf in the Wilderness

"Nestled in the trees as though it had grown from the earth, the majestic mountain lodge of logs and stone drowsed undisturbed, a tranquil forest retreat…"

The Daily Interlake 
By Bob Phillips, June 12, 1983
Ghosts of the ultra-rich haunt historic lodge 

"The restored lodge is envisioned as a place for "people who are looking for some serenity in their life," said Vaughn. "We would really like to have a place of healing here. A place where people could come to get well…"

The Bigfork Eagle
By L.D. Gross, August 4, 1982
Restoration of the estate becoming a reality

"Thompkins takes on a special glow when he begins to talk about Kootenai Lodge and the lives of who those who came to enjoy its pleasures. He said he sees something magical about the estate reaching a climax, then fading into a peaceful oblivion only to be found, dusted off and revitalized by people such as himself."

Montana Magazine
By Betty Wetzel, 1981
Wilderness Waldorf for Copper Magnates 

"Lenox, Wedgewood and Bavarian china, Steuben crystal, fine tables linens, enhanced the splendid cuisine of the Kelley table. A chauffeur picked up the "meat boxes" shipped twice weekly from Spokane on the passenger train to Whitefish. Chickens and game hens arrived, special order from Kansas City, one bird per guest … The food and table settings were matched by correct service under the watchful eye of the butler, Thomas Clydesdale, dressed in black for the evening meal…"

Kalispell Weekly News 
By Pamela Larratt
The Copper King's Camelot

"Copper sheeting covered the roofs. Cedar logs and furniture rose up into the dream houses, cottages, lounges and dining halls. Wild animal rugs and birch "teepee" lamps festooned the place alongside imported objects and copper accessories. The 50 by 70 foot main lounge soared to a raw 30 foot height ... A walk-in fireplace with two gates had a single giant slab for a hearth, as did all the other fireplaces on the estate."





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Charles M. "Charlie" Russell, western artist at Kootenai Lodge
Charlie Russell