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Long-time concessionaire takes over Swan District campgrounds

Posted at 2:41 PM, Dec 20, 2022

MISSOULA - The Flathead National Forest is renewing its campground concessionaire permits for the next 10 years and is welcoming a former concessionaire to the Swan Valley.

On Monday, the Flathead National Forest announced that Parting Waters Adventures Inc. was again awarded campground concession special-use permits to operate and maintain forest recreation facilities in the Tally and Hungry Horse Ranger Districts.

The special-use permits expire at the end of 2027 with an option to extend for an additional five years.

Kalispell-based Parting Waters Adventures, also known as Flathead Valley Campgrounds, currently runs all the company-run campgrounds on the Flathead National Forest and has done so for about six years.

Parting Waters spokeswoman Cheryl DeLong said her company worked for Barta Enterprises, which won the campground special-use permits in 2102, but after the first four years, the owner wanted to get out of the campground business so Parting Waters took over.

However, starting in January, Parting Waters will no longer be managing the Swan Lake, Holland Lake and Lindbergh Lake campgrounds on the Swan Lake Ranger District.

DeLong said her company applied but didn’t get those permits. But it’s a bit of a blessing in disguise.

“We put in for both - don’t know why they decided to split them this year,” DeLong said. “A little disappointed but very much relieved, because there are so many miles between all of our campgrounds. There’s 150 miles from the northernmost one to Holland Lake.”

M.J. Crandall, recreation lead on the Hungry Horse Recreation District, said the permits were put out for bid and Big Sky Recreation, also known as BSRC LLC, put in the lowest bid to manage the Swan Lake Ranger District campgrounds.

Big Sky Recreation did not apply to manage campgrounds in the Tally and Hungry Horse Ranger Districts so Parting Waters kept those permits.

Leona Maneval of Bigfork said her father started Big Sky Recreation in 1984 and managed the Flathead National Forest campgrounds for 28 years before Barta Enterprises won the bids in 2012.

Maneval and her brother moved to Montana to take over from their father about 15 years ago. Now they’ll once again be managing the Swan Lake District campgrounds but didn’t bid on the Tally and Hungry Horse campgrounds because they’re farther from Bigfork, Maneval said.

They also run the campgrounds around Georgetown Lake.

Maneval has also been the hospitality manager for Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge.

There’s a lot of attention about the Holland Lake Lodge special-use permit, and many Montanans are watching the area closely. Maneval said nothing is going to change at the campgrounds.

“It’s business as usual. We partner with the Forest Service — we work with them. We’re here for the public. We’re here to make sure people have a good time camping and that sites are clean,” Maneval said. “We really enjoy Swan and Holland and that area, so it’s a good fit for us.”

The Lolo National Forest does not use concessionaires for its campgrounds.