In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean

THE STORY OF THE BLACKFOOT | September 8-10, 2017 | Seeley Lake & Missoula, Montana

The 2017 In The Footsteps Of Norman Maclean Festival presents three days of stories from the iconic Blackfoot River and Blackfoot Valley of northwest Montana



Blackfoot bounty: Scenic river retains fishing legacy

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian
August 17, 2017

Derek Snodgrass prefers the Clark Fork River for fishing, but the Blackfoot for family.

“There’s nothing like catching fish with your old man or your brother,” the Missoula angler said on a recent float down western Montana’s most famous waterway. “We’re going to do a ‘River Runs Through It’ thing. We’ve been fishing here as a family since childhood, but it means more now that we’re older and busier. We have to make it happen...” CONTINUE READING →

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Norman Maclean Festival to Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of "A River Runs Through It"

Three-day festival features Tom Skerritt, film's producer and creative team in Seeley Lake and Missoula.

By Alpine Artisans, Seeley Swan Pathfinder
August 10, 2017

Tom Skerritt and other members of the creative team from Robert Redford's film, "A River Runs Through It" will highlight the three-day In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival Sept. 8-10 in Seeley Lake and Missoula. Released in 1992, "A River Runs Through It" won an Oscar for cinematography (Philippe Rousselot), Oscar nominations for its direction (Robert Redford), musical score (Mark Isham) and screenplay (Richard Friedenberg), and created an explosion in the popularity of fly fishing in general and Montana in particular...  CONTINUE READING →

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AAI to Receive $10,000 Grant

By Alpine Artisans, Seeley Swan Pathfinder
December 15, 2016

SEELEY LAKE - National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $30 million in grants as part of the NEA’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is a Challenge America grant of $10,000 to Alpine Artisans, Inc. for the 2017 In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival... CONTINUE READING →

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Haunted By Waters

Jenna Cederburg/Montana Magazine, November/December 2015

Inside Jerry O’Connell’s wedding ring is a slightly altered inscription excerpted from the famous novella “A River Runs Through It,” in which the Blackfoot River is featured prominently.

The last lines in the book read: “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs...

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In His Footsteps

Jenna Cederburg/Montana Magazine, November/December 2015

Norman Maclean once claimed, “I don’t read books, I write ‘em.”

He backed up that boast with “A River Runs Through It,” which arguably transformed Montana’s reputation as Wild West battlefield to a place of literary refinement and distinguished fly-fishing. The storied professor of literature at the University of Chicago mined his own youth for a 160-page trio of tales about the Big Blackfoot River and logging in the Rocky Mountains...

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In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival

Jerry O’Connell for Northwest Fly Fishing
November/December 2015

“I am haunted by waters.”

There isn’t a fly fisher worth his or her hackle who doesn’t instantly recognize
that phrase. And there isn’t a passionate angler who doesn’t feel those words resonate...

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Article courtesy of Northwest Fly Fishing


Celebrating Norman Maclean in Montana

Michael Kerr, The London Daily Telegraph
August 1, 2015

When TS Eliot won the poetry contest of The Dial magazine in New York in 1922, the judges weren’t unanimous. Two chose The Waste Land, but one, Carl Sandburg, preferred a poem by a young man from Montana, Norman Maclean...

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July 16, 2015

Maclean Festival Draws Crowd From Across Nation and Beyond
By Betty Vanderwielen, Pathfinder

I Have Climbed Where They Climbed: Questions Still Burn at Mann Gulch
By Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean: On the Banks of the Blackfoot River
By Andi Bourne, Pathfinder

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Book, movie, stories mythologize Blackfoot River

By Brett French, Billings Gazette
July 16, 2015

After stepping atop a loose rock lying along the banks of the Blackfoot River and stumbling, Kristin Fisher couldn’t help but think of her father.

“To this day he has never learned to swim, yet he fished this river extensively,” she said. “Mom must have wondered if he would ever come back. He’d be gone all day, and she was home with three kids.”

Fisher was one of about 30 people touring the river on Sunday as part of a Seeley Lake literary festival honoring author Norman Maclean. The event was organized by Alpine Artisans, Inc. Maclean’s novella, “A River Runs Through It,”...

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Norman Maclean remembered at festival in Seeley Lake

By Dillon Kato, Missoulian
July 13, 2015

John Maclean is always nervous when asked to talk about his family, unsure of what he has to add to the legacy of his father, Norman Maclean, author of “A River Runs Through It.”

“Well, you know, Robert Redford made our home movie,” he said Saturday.

Writers and literary fans of Maclean’s novels gathered in Seeley Lake over the weekend for the inaugural celebration of In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean, a festival about the author and the impact of his work. CONTINUE READING →

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Seeley Lake festival delves into more than Maclean's writing

By Rob Chaney, Missoulian
July 10, 2015

To someone unfamiliar with “A River Runs Through It,” it might seem risky to build a literary festival around an author famous for only one book in his lifetime, who wrote his masterworks late in his career and was known more as a teacher than a writer.

This weekend’s sold-out tours of the book’s fabled fly-fishing spots and the notorious wildfire slopes chronicled in “Young Men and Fire” argue that Norman Maclean’s appeal goes far beyond bookworms. Instead, it could be a template for celebrating the style of stories shaped by place as much as people that won Maclean acclaim. CONTINUE READING →

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On the fly
Festival tours try to trace Maclean's footsteps on Blackfoot

By Alex Sakariassen, Missoula Independent
July 9, 2015

Fly rods chatter against the front windshield as Jerry O'Connell steers his Subaru along the dusty washboard road between Montana Highway 200 and Clearwater Junction. He jabs a finger in the direction of a ponderosa grove, talking about a great hole in the Clearwater just beyond, about how it's fed in spring and fall by cooler waters skimming along the surface of Salmon Lake and fishes great during those times. Come July 11, O'Connell will pass this exact spot while leading the first of two Blackfoot River fishing-hole tours as part of the upcoming Seeley Lake literary festival "In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean." But pinpointing spots from the pages of Maclean's A River Runs Through It, published in 1976 and based on events from 1937, is hardly exact. CONTINUE READING →

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'In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean' to celebrate literary icon

Billings Gazette, July 3, 2015  |  Rediscover Montana, 2015

By Dillon Kato, Missoulian
May 19, 2015

A portrait of the Rev. John Maclean at Seeley Lake hangs in the family cabin that he began building in 1922.

A portrait of the Rev. John Maclean at Seeley Lake hangs in the family cabin that he began building in 1922.

A stone’s throw from the cabin his family has owned for nearly a century, a group of Seeley Lake residents is holding a festival honoring a Montana literary icon.

“We feel like we’re long overdue to honor the works of Norman Maclean,” said Jenny Rohrer.

Rohrer is the coordinator of the “In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean” festival, which will have its inaugural celebration in Seeley Lake this summer, July 10-13. CONTINUE READING →

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Festival focuses on life, writings of Norman Maclean

By Erin Madison, Great Falls Tribune
July 3, 2015

John Maclean has been busy looking through family photos and gathering information to share at the upcoming In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival.

"I've been looking at old photographs," said John Maclean, son of famed author Norman Maclean. "People love pictures. It kind of tells the story."

John Maclean will share the story of his family at the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival to be held July 10-13 in Seeley Lake. He is one of an impressive lineup of speakers who knew and worked with Norman Maclean.

"I think we're bringing together an incredible array of people," festival organizer Jenny Rohrer said.

This is the first year of the festival, which aims to celebrate Maclean's "A River Runs Through It," and to uncover extraordinary memories and little-known aspects of the Montana life of Norman Maclean.

John Maclean will offer a glimpse into that life by sharing the history of the family cabin located on the shore of Seeley Lake.

"We've been there nearly a century," John Maclean said. CONTINUE READING →

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4th of July in Condon and Seeley Lake


Novelist Pete Dexter: Maclean put everything on the line with 'River'

By Cory Walsh, Missoulian
July 2, 2015

Pete Dexter wasn't yet a published novelist when he first read "A River Runs Through It."

That was back in 1980, some eight years before he won the National Book Award.

"I was a newspaper columnist and I'd written some other magazine pieces, but I didn't really know anything," he said in a phone interview
from his Washington home.

"That book is one of those things. You just get your eyes opened to what's possible," he said.

Norman Maclean's poetic 1976 novella about family and fly fishing struck him so much that he traveled to Seeley Lake to write a profile of Maclean for Esquire in 1981.

He spent about a week with the writer, then 79, at his family cabin, which will be host to the inaugural "In the Steps of Norman Maclean" festival, a literary shindig on his life and legacy.

Dexter will revisit western Montana as part of the festival next weekend, delivering a keynote speech. CONTINUE READING →

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Posted June 2, 2015

In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival
July 10-13 in Seeley Lake

Norman Maclean. Photo by VERONICA WALD.

Norman Maclean. Photo by VERONICA WALD.

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. CONTINUE READING →



Follow in Norman Maclean’s Footsteps

By Christine Rogel, Big Sky Journal
Fly Fishing 2015

Norman Maclean, the celebrated author of A River Runs Through It, wrote many of his premiere works by hand on the deck of his log cabin on the shores of Seeley Lake. In honor of this literary heritage, the nonprofit group Alpine Artisans is sponsoring an inaugural festival at Seeley Lake and along the Blackfoot River July 10 through 13, 2015.

In The Footsteps of Norman Maclean will highlight the author’s work with presentations by those who knew Maclean personally, as well as by writers and scholars who have reviewed, analyzed and appreciated his work. Speakers include the forest ranger who walked Mann Gulch with Maclean while he researched his books, and Norman’s son and author, John N. Maclean. In addition, there will be guided tours of the fishing holes described in A River Runs Through It and of Mann Gulch, and updates on conservation efforts on the Blackfoot River. Of course, there will also be a film screening, and the festival cumulates in a writer’s workshop at the Double Arrow Resort. For a complete list of planned speakers and events, call 406.754.0034 or visit

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July Festival to Feature Norman Maclean

By Andi Bourne, Seeley Swan Pathfinder
January 1, 2015

To honor and celebrate the heritage of author Norman Maclean, Alpine Artisans Inc. (AAI) is hosting the “In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival,” July 10-13, 2015. The inaugural literary festival will be held annually in Seeley Lake and on the Blackfoot River. It will highlight Maclean’s work and life through tours, talks and workshops lead by those who knew him best including his son, John Maclean and editorial director for the University of Chicago Press Alan Thomas.

The idea for the festival originated in the AAI’s Open Book Club program. To date the club has hosted 55 authors in their author series at the Grizzly Claw Trading Company. The Open Book Club has been one of AAI’s most successful programs.

“We are a real literary community,” said Festival Director Jenny Rohrer. “There is a great response to literary events because people love going to a place and experiencing it without changing it. They appreciate the small town aspects.”

According to Rohrer, Maclean changed the literary landscape of not only Montana but also American literature. His first book, “A River Runs Through It,” quickly assumed a permanent place in the highest ranks of late 20th-century American literature.

The festival is designed to take a serious look at Maclean’s fiction and non-fiction literature. Speakers and scholars who will focus on Maclean’s works include: forest ranger Laird Robinson who walked the Mann Gulch with Maclean during Maclean’s investigation; Maclean’s son, author and reporter John Maclean; Alan Thomas the editorial director at the University of Chicago Press and editor of Maclean’s posthumous “Young Men and Fire”; and current and past smokejumpers. Also tentatively scheduled is keynote speaker and author Peter Dexter who wrote “The Old Man and the River” for Esquire Magazine in the mid-80’s featuring Maclean.

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

Saturday centers on Maclean’s writings and the film, “A River Runs Through It.”

Camp Paxson was the site of the nation’s first smokejumper training center and will host Sunday’s activities focused on “Young Men and Fire” and the heritage of smoke jumping in Montana.

Monday’s events feature a Writer’s Workshop and a tour of Mann Gulch, the scene of the tragic wildfire documented in “Young Men and Fire.”

Also included in the festival are tours of the actual fishing holes described in “A River Runs Through It” and updates on the successful conservation efforts on the Blackfoot River.

“This festival is really ambitious,” said Rohrer. “It is perfect for Montana’s branding because it is an authentic, small town festival to celebrate a world renowned author. We expect it to bring several hundred people into the community.”

AAI has received three grants from the Seeley Lake Community Foundation, Tourism Montana for publicity and the Burback Foundation. Local historical and conservation organizations partnering with AAI for the festival include the Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper, Clearwater Resource Center, Seeley Lake Community Foundation and Seeley Lake Historical Society.

“Alpine Artisans is very proud of the dedicated involvement of the Open Book Club to bring a festival of this magnitude to our area,” said AAI Co-President Kris Gullikson.“The support of the co-sponsoring agents is appreciated and the events are coming along according to their plan. This event will bring awareness of the area’s historical significance and beauty to everyone who attends and beyond!”

For more information about the program and to take a brief survey about featured and offered events visit

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Produced by Alpine Artisans
Sponsors: Montana Film Office • Big Blackfoot Chapter of Trout Unlimited • Big Blackfoot Riverkeeper • Blackfoot Challenge • Citizens Alliance Bank • Humanities Montana • Montana Cultural Trust • Montana Department of Commerce • National Endowment for the Arts • Seeley Lake Community Foundation •  Seeley Lake Historical Society and Museum

For More Information contact: Jenny Rohrer, Festival Coordinator
(406) 754-0034,

Copyright © 2017, Alpine Artisans, Inc. All rights reserved.
Background image: Juan De Santa Anna