Seeley Lake is one link in a chain of five lakes nestled between the lofty Swan and Mission mountain ranges in western Montana. Two hundred acres of ancient larch trees surround the area, which has drawn visitors since the early 1900s. In 1924, the USDA Forest Service granted a permit to the Western Montana Council of Boy Scouts to construct a summer camp. The facility was originally a tent camp but by the late 1930s there was need for a more permanent facility. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), New Deal programs vital to the nation’s economic recovery during the depressed 1930s, provided funds and manpower to construct the present camp. The rustic log buildings were constructed in 1939-1940 under the direction of Forest Service engineer Clyde Fickes. It is the only CCC-constructed youth camp in Montana. Designed to fit the natural landscape, the twenty buildings of saddle-notched native larch demonstrate excellent craftsmanship, remarkable since CCC workers were primarily “city boys” trained on the job. Several interior fireplaces of uncut native stone likewise reveal extraordinary masonry skills. Because of its public ownership and support, Camp Paxson has long provided recreational opportunities to diverse youth organizations. In 1995, the Missoula Children’s Theatre secured a special use permit from the Lolo National Forest to manage Camp Paxson. Named for Montana artist Edgar S. Paxson, the facility now serves as a center for drama training and retreats, children’s music camp, disadvantaged youth and other youth groups, family reunions, and community organizations.
Project originally submitted by Natasha Hollenbach on November 8, 2016.