Seems I can’t always focus on my inside work when I am sitting by a window, looking out.  I have a weakness for wildlife of all kinds, but especially birds.  Flitting, feeding, fighting with all those shapes and sizes - they are a constant, but welcome, distraction.  I come by it honestly.  Growing up, I can remember my mother getting us to rush to the window with shouts of, “Come and look!!  There’s a rose-breasted grosebeak!!”  She even took to naming some of her favorites…like the surprisingly large pileated woodpecker she named “Big George”.

In that tradition, we now have our own feathered favorites.  The Great Horned Owls have been nesting in the spruce trees on our front lawn since 1985 and many springs we have a front-row seat to the fledglings first flights.  We know our noisy neighbors are back from the south when the Sandhill Cranes return in spring. There are so many wonderful species and this area that the Madison Valley has been named an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the Audubon Society and El Western is one of the IBA counting sites.

One of my favorite guest stories was the woman from New York City who came into our office to check out.  As usual in the summer, the office door was propped open to a beautiful Montana morning and as she sipped her coffee she commented that she would love to have that recording.  Puzzled, I asked what recording she meant.  “The birds,” she said. “That CD of all the birds singing would be lovely to have back in the city – we just don’t hear them.”  It took quite awhile to convince her that those songs and chirps were not recorded…just the usual morning chatter of our feathered guests!

For more information on the Madison Valley IBA visit  

Observing nature is a favorite passtime here at El Western.  The constant tide of weather changes and animal sightings is educational and entertaining (okay - so we're easily entertained!).  Even Tippet, our golden retriever, gets involved. We taught her not to chase deer, as that is dangerous for the deer moving to the highway and for her.  Instead, we call them her "friends".  The deer have adapted to her non-aggression and will follow her activities - even watching when we throw balls in their direction and she retrieves them.  Sometimes, it looks like they might be interested in playing themselves.

But Tippet's favorite part of the day is after her dinner.  She gets a "chewie" stick and takes it outside and joins her "deer friends" on the lawn as they munch the dried grass.  They have all gotten so used to this routine, that Tippet will look out the window and whine for an early supper if the deer have already gathered.  The deer, for their part, are attentive when she comes out, but go back to snacking as soon as she lies down.  Once in a while, a deer will huff and stomp at her, but Tippet just keeps chewing and before long the aggressive doe will relax.  Last evening, one of the deer got within 3 feet of Tippet, and I grabbed my camera to record the friendship!











Deer and Dog



Swans and ducks share Bear CreekPeaceful, quiet, secluded, relaxing…words we think of to describe winter in Montana.  And they are mostly appropriate for the humans.  But for the critters awake in our winter world, life is active.  Take a walk on Bear Creek Meadow and see the chips of wood and fresh cut branches left by those ever-busy beavers.  Or encounter the very skittish Great Blue Herons on take-off or catch a family of swans or ducks swimming where the water still flows.  Millie moose and her calf are here from time to time – the herd of deer are here all the time.  The owls hoot us awake in the morning and again as they sent out on their evening hunt. 

We are never sure what we will see outside our windows in the“quiet” wintertime...but we never tire of nature’s surprises.













 New Year's Greetings! It always suprises folks when I tell them January is one of our busiest months.  With only the Moose Lodge and Eagle's Loft open for the winter, how can we be so busy???  

Well, right now is peak reservation season for our repeat visitors and also new family groups or weddings.  The Mountainside Cabins and the Moose, Eagle and Trout Lodges are unique accommodations with their large living spaces and full-service support from our front office and housekeeping staffs. Guests know that they need to plan ahead to reserve their first choice cabin.  

Let us help you plan your Montana is a great time to lock in your favorite cabin and look forward to the summer!  

The waterwheel waits for spring to start rolling again...just like us!





The Madison River has gorged! Gorging is caused when extremely cold temps freeze the water into ice that clumps together on the bottom of the river, forms bigger clumps and floats to the top causing the river to slow and more ice to form. Eventually, the river stops flowing as the ice jams it up. The river doesn't always gorge, but this year has been extreme - starting early and continuing for over a month with just a short break. You can look at other gorge photos in our FB album at


Come spend some quiet time with us this winter.  The Moose Lodge and Eagle's Loft lodge stay open all year and a crackling fire is really welcome after a day snowshoeing in the nearby forests.  Rates and information for a winter stay are just a click away on our winter page.



This is a great time to plan for your vacation to El Western next summer.  Our availability is still good and we still have space on the 4th of July weekend.  Look around the site and click on one of the "Book It Now" links or give us a call!  



Welcome to the updated El Western website!  Time to try to catch up with the trends so that the site can work on all those new snazzy phones and I-pads.  We appreciate any comments or noting of any glitches that you run across - send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  Thanks!




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