In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival

July 10-13 in Seeley Lake

Books & Writers
The Blackfoot River, where Norman Maclean fished and found inspiration
The Blackfoot River, where Norman Maclean fished and found inspirationPhoto © Jerry O'Connell, Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper

There is a magic to Montana, and that sense of magic was captured exquisitely on the written page by native son Norman Maclean. Best known for his novella A River Runs Through It, Maclean is also lauded for his short stories and Young Men and Fire, his hard-headed investigation into the tragic Mann Gulch fire of 1949.

To honor and celebrate the heritage of Maclean, Alpine Artisans, a 23-year old Seeley Lake arts organization, is hosting the inaugural “In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival” July 10-13. The festival will highlight those who remember Maclean’s life in Seeley Lake, those who worked with him on his book, Young Men and Fire, and writers and scholars who have reviewed, analyzed and appreciate Maclean’s works.

Famous writer in canoe on Seeley Lake
Famous writer in canoe on Seeley LakePhoto © Veronica Wald

Guests include a forest ranger who walked Mann Gulch with Maclean during the author’s investigation of the fire, professors who taught with him at the University of Chicago, his son, author and reporter John Maclean, and others. Keynote speaker and National Book Award winner Pete Dexter will recall the days he spent in Seeley Lake with Maclean in the early 1980s and the influence Maclean had on his writing.

Festival events will be held on the river and in Seeley Lake at the Double Arrow Resort and nearby Camp Paxson.

Saturday’s events center on Maclean’s writings and Robert Redford’s film, “A River Runs Through It.” Camp Paxson, which was the site of the nation’s first smokejumper training center, will host Sunday’s presentations on both Norman and John N. Maclean’s numerous published works on wildland fires and their impact, as well as the heritage of smoke-jumping in Montana.

Monday brings a Writer’s Workshop and a full-day tour of Mann Gulch, the scene of the wildfire documented in Young Men and Fire. Tours of the actual fishing holes described in A River Runs Through It and updates on the successful conservation efforts on the Blackfoot River are also part of the event.

This effort originated in the Open Book Club program of Alpine Artisans, which has hosted 55 noted authors in its author series at the Grizzly Claw Trading Company. Local historical and conservation horganizations have joined the effort, including the Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper, Clearwater Resource Center, Seeley Lake Community Foundation and Seeley Lake Historical Society.

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