Essex owes its existence to the Great Northern Railway, as does the railway. The 5,213 foot elevation at Summit, 16 miles east of Essex, is the highest point on the line and even with today's powerful diesel engines, helper engines are needed to get the long freights over the hill. As the technology of the railroad changed, many changes in the town followed. The population of Essex was at its highest when snow crews shoveled the snow off the tracks in the their section by hand; when track walkers patrolled the full length of the railroad; when men were needed to tend the water tanks, coal chutes, sand houses, roundhouse, telegraph and all of the other equipment necessary to keep the big steam engines running safely and efficiently. Essex probably began around 1890 when the railroad reached the area. Tom Shields homesteaded the land and by 1898 the town was able to boast a post office. Today, Essex and the Izaak Walton Inn are truly jewels surrounded by a million acres of wilderness.
More On The Izaak Walton Inn
Summer at the Izaak Walton is our most active season. We offer whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, wildlife viewing and huckleberry picking. The wonders of Glacier National Park provide a wide selection of recreational opportunities. The Going-to-the-Sun Road is a 120-mile complete loop from the inn. The road is open, weather permitting, from mid-June thru mid-October. In summer the entrance fee to the park is $12 for a single 7 day pass and $25 for a vehicle 7 day pass. No entrance fee is collected in winter. There are over 700 miles of hiking trails in the park. A permit is needed for back-country camping in the park. The park boundary for back-country access is across the river from the inn at the Walton Ranger Station. The park service offers free ranger-led hikes throughout the park.
Autumn at the inn is a photographer's dream come true. The trees, particularly the Tamaracks, come alive with rich colors of red, orange and gold in preparation for winter. Large game viewing areas are about 20 miles from the inn.
Winter is magnificent at the Izaak Walton. The snow comes early and stays late. We offer over 30 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails. Ski and snowshoe equipment is available for rent. Guided ski and snowshoe tours take you into the beauty of Glacier National Park.
Spring offers a wonderland of beauty. The snow gradually retreats and is replaced by a carpet of wildflowers. Wildlife becomes more active offering viewing of moose, elk, coyotes, deer and many smaller animals. Mountain goats come to a natural salt formation located three miles from the inn's front door. A visit to the "Goat Lick" is always a crowd-pleaser. The inn also offers a haven for rail fans with a rich history from the Great Northern to the still active helper station next door. Railroad memorabilia is displayed throughout the inn. We host two railfan weekends per year where everyone gets together to share their stories and slide shows for a guaranteed good time.
For more information about the Izaak Walton Inn and booking a room please visit their website by clicking here. For more reading and background on the Great Northern Railway consider the book The Great Northern Railway: A History from authors, Ralph Hidy, Muriel Hidy, Roy Scott, and Don Hofsommer. The book is stuffed full of photographs,
maps, and timetables of the GN up through its creation and building to
the Pacific Northwest to its merger with the Chicago, Burlington &
Quincy Railroad and Northern Pacific to form the Burlington Northern in
1970. Anyone with an interest in the GN will almost surely enjoy the
book. Also, for more information and reading about excursion trains and railroad museums you might want to consider picking up Tourist Trains Guidebook from the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains magazine. The book lists
and reviews over 400 excursions and museums found throughout the
country and is an excellent resource, which has received superb reviews
by readers, if you're looking for one to visit.
Izaak Walton Inn