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Film Location: Lake McDonald, Montana

Written on May 16, 2017

Lake McDonald

Glacier National Park in Montana is home to over 700 lakes. Lake McDonald is the largest of these at a length of 10 miles (16km) and depth of nearly 500 feet (152.4m).

Lake McDonald is a beautiful glacial lake surrounded by a dense coniferous forest, and mountains that are covered in snow through the colder months.

A unique feature of Lake McDonald is its abundant iron-rich colourful stones and pebbles, particularly those just beneath the water’s surface on the shores of the lake. Colours range from a pale blue, to a dark red, to a green or maroon. The cold, crystal clear water and absence of plant life allows clear photography to a depth of up to 30 feet.

Getting There

Located in the north of Montana, close to the Canadian border, Lake McDonald is a 3hr drive from Missoula.

Depending on snowfall, the Going-to-the-sun road which passes directly through the shores of the park is open from June to October. Same goes for in-park facilities. The lake is not far from the West Glacier entrance to the park and Apgar visitor center.

Film & Photography Permits

Permission to film and photography must be sought from the National Parks Service. All commercial filming (including films, TV commercials, TV shows, and documentaries) requires a Special Use Permit. News coverage does not require a permit. Stills photography only requires a permit if shooting in an area that:

• Is normally closed to the visiting public, or outside of normal visitation hours.
• Involves models, sets and props.
• Would require the park to monitor the shoot.

Location fees may apply. Rates vary depending on the type of shoot and number of crew members on set.

Commercial videographers, cinematographers, DoP’s, and sound operators with minimal equipment working in areas open to the public must obtain a commercial filming permit. They are subject to the same rules but will not be charged location fees.

Permission to film and photograph is generally granted providing no damage will be done to the park, and there is no significant disruption to park visitors or park staff.

Proof of liability insurance may be required.

Allow at least 10 working days for processing of permits for smaller shoots. For more complicated projects that require environmental or cultural resource evaluation allow at least 30 days.

Film Crews

Missoula is the closest place for locally based film crews and equipment. If you are looking for a Montana film crew including directors, DoP’s, videographers, cameramen, photographers, sound operators, producers, fixers, etc. contact us for referrals.