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The Blackfoot River
"Like many fly fishermen in western Montana where the summer days are almost Arctic in length, I often do not start fishing until the cool of the evening. Then in the Arctic half-light of the canyon, all existence fades to a being with my soul and memories and the sounds of the Big Blackfoot River and a four-count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise."
~ Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

The opal pools and emerald riffles of the Blackfoot River have run through the collective imagination ever since Norman Maclean's 1976 novella A River Runs Through It.  The story elevated the Blackfoot from a simple trout stream to a literary masterpiece.  The river begins its journey near the Continental Divided, a few miles northeast of Lincoln. The upper half of the Blackfoot cuts across Southwest Montana from Lincoln to Ovando before running into the Clark Fork near Missoula.  From Lincoln to Ovando, the Blackfoot flows at a leisurely pace through scenic valleys and narrow, twisting canyons.  The distance from Missoula ensures that this stretch of river doesn't get overly heavy use.  Don't let the smaller crowds fool you, the river is superb.  The river swirls with holes and riffles full of very hungry twenty inch trout.  Fewer people also mean that an abundance of wildlife-elk, moose, bighorn, osprey, and eagles-populate the area. The state land on the banks gives ready access to camping along much of the river, and the calm, but often twisting, waterway caters perfectly to canoeists and kayakers.  No better occupation could be found than plying the banks of this classic blue ribbon trout stream, fly rod in one hand, Maclean's book in the other.    




SouthWest Montana is For the Birds!

While exploring SouthWest Montana, why not take a step back and focus your energy on an emersion in nature? Birding may be an activity that you have never thought of trying, but why not? Maybe you don’t even know what ‘birding’ entails. Birding is an opportunity to step into the natural world and observe its inhabitants, obviously focusing on our feathered friends, in an honest, no commitment location. Birding is a rapidly growing hobby across the United States, and is an enjoyable activity for people of all ages. Birding is an educational experience, allowing participants to focus on each individual species, opening doors to learn about migration patterns, behavior, territories and preferences. One of the most attractive aspects of birding however, is its flexibility in definition. Birders tailor the hobby to their specific interests; some focus on the science behind the birds, while others use it as an opportunity to get outdoors (hiking, gardening, woodworking, etc), still others focus on an art aspect (photography, drawing, painting, etc.).

Southwest Montana is the perfect place to begin your involvement in the birding community. The varied landscape of Southwest Montana creates numerous habitats enriching your birding experience. Southwest Montana birding trails showcase one National Wildlife Refuge, two National Historic Sites, four Wildlife Management Areas, two State Parks, five campground / recreation areas, and numerous tracts of Bureau of Land Management and National Forest lands. A few of these areas are highlighted below, but be sure to explore all of the birding options in the area.

Located at the foot of the majestic Centennial Mountains, the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Lakeview, Montana is a beautiful preservation of the natural habitat. The Refuge encompasses a variety of habitats, including: lakes, marshes, wet meadows, willow riparian, grasslands, and forest habitats. This diversity provides homes to a variety of species, such as: Trumpeter Swan, Greater Sage-Grouse, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Black-crowned Night-Heron along with a large variety of other species.

The Beartooth Wildlife Management Area is owned by Fish Wildlife and Parks, and spans over 31,000 acres and can be accessed by foot, car, boat, on horseback, or mountain bike. Located between Augusta and Wolf Creek, the Beartooth WMA is home to Trumpeter Swan, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Upland Sandpiper, Northern Pygmy-Owl, Lewis's Woodpecker, Common Loon, and so many more!

Nestled just outside of Deer Lodge is the Warm Springs Wildlife Management Area. This refuge is a complex of ponds created by ARCO in an attempt to restore and treat surface water that was affected by historic mining in the area. This area is therefore primarily wetlands, and showcases a variety of cattail, rush, sedge, water birch, alder, aspen, and willow. The birds that make their home in this area range from Snow Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose to Double Crested Cormorant and Western Flycatchers and a plethora of other species.




What's Happening in Southwest Montana this September?

Summer may be wrapping up, but the activities in Southwest Montana are continuing. If you don't already have plans-or if you are searching for something to do throughout September, take a look at some of the events going on around our region!

Don't miss the variety of Farmer's and Community Markets that will be wrapping up their seasons in the coming weeks: Butte Farmers' Market, Sheridan Farmers' Market, Boulder Farmers' Market, Anaconda Community Market, and the Deer Lodge Community Garden Pick-Your-Own Market!

Other Activities throughout the Month:

Box and Cox - Virginia City, MT | August 25 - September 20

The Brewery Follies - Virginia City, MT | September 2 - 26

Music on Broadway - Helena, MT | September 2 - 24

Living History Weekends - Virginia City, MT | through September 27

Wild and Scenic Film Festival - Helena, MT | September 10

"All Hands on Deck! The Musical" - Butte, MT | September 10

Original Festival - Butte, MT | September 11 - 12

Boulder Music and Arts Festival - Boulder, MT | September 12 - 13

Absaroka Winds - Virginia City, MT | September 12

"Evening Over the Mountains" Dinner and Silent Auction Fundraiser - Virginia city, MT | September 12

Bop-A-Dips - Deer Lodge, MT | September 12

Big Sky Draft Horse Expo - Deer Lodge, MT | September 19 - 20

GobCon - Butte, MT | September 26

A Gathering of Men: Landscapes of Change, Wild Places and Inner Spaces - Wolf Creek, MT | September 30- October 4




Ghost Towns

It takes a long time for a town to give up the ghost. Take Bannack, for example: established in 1862, Montana's first mining town had run out of gold by the 1880s, and yet the town clung on. Determined, hard-headed prospectors kept the town alive even after it became a state park in the 1950s. The last residents left Bannack in the 1970s.

Or look at Virginia City: Prospectors discovered the Alder Gulch gold field-one of the richest placer gold deposits in history-in 1863. By 1875 the town was little more than a shell. But, as the children's song says, the cat came back. Steam dredges gave the town some life from the 1890s to 1937. The town was virtually dead by the 1940s and '50s when the Bovey's started buying up property and importing ramshackle huts, then, with a flourish, the town reinvented itself as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.

Bannack lives through the floods of people that visit it each year. Virginia City lives because it replaced mining with a new economy and industry: tourism. A few towns lack much in the way of economy or industry, but still refuse to die: Marysville, Rimini, and Pony are all ghost towns with non-ghostly inhabitants. The few residents live comfortably amid a profusion of abandoned and historic buildings. Montana is chock full of ghost towns, some with modifiers-living ghost towns, working ghost towns, preserved ghost towns-and some that need no other description. A school house, grave yard and only a few dilapidated husks of homes mark the site of Farlin, a mining town that once prospered in the Pioneer Mountains. Only badgers and ground squirrels tunnel around the sprawling ruins of Comet, once the second largest mining operation in Montana. In Granite, on the crest of a hill so hard they couldn't dig holes to bury their dead, only the gaping maws of shallow foundations mark the place where three thousand people once worked, lived, played, and prayed.

The ghost towns of Montana are stark memorials to the state’s boom and bust cycles, but even the deadest of towns still bear the promise of those same booms and busts.  Abandoned once before, the town of Coolidge was erected in 1914 with the recovering silver prices.  As its counterparts, Coolidge slowly gave up its ghosts and sits today an unkempt and scattered collection of decaying structures waiting for a venturesome soul to happen upon its skeleton, bringing the town whirring back to life — for that is the nature of the Boom and Bust.  




What's Happening in Southwest Montana?

***The summer months are always busy in Southwest Montana, don't miss these great events throughout August***

Virginia City Art Show - Virginia City, MT | August 7-9

20th Annual Madison Valley Arts Festival - Ennis, MT | August 8

4th Annual Lincolnstock - Lincoln, MT | August 8-9

Madison County Fair & Rodeo - Twin Bridges, MT | August 12-16

Tri County Fair - Deer Lodge, MT | August 12-16 An Ri

Rah Montana Irish Festival - Butte, MT | August 14-16

Bike Helena Shuttle Fest - Helena, MT | August 14-16

The Grand Victorian Ball of Peace 1865 - Virginia City, MT | August 15

Brewers Festival - Helena, MT | August 15

Powell County Demolition Derby - Deer Lodge, MT | August 16

Haying with Horses - Grant Kohrs Ranch | ends August 20

Symphony Under the Silver Screen - Butte, MT |August 20

Aber Day Reunion Concert - Philipsburg, MT |August 22

Jefferson County Fair and Rodeo - Boulder, MT | August 27-30

Bozeman Trail Commemorative Chuckwagon Cook-off - Virginia City, MT | August 28-30

Boulder Car Show - Boulder, MT | August 29

Tizer Gardens - Jefferson City, MT | August




A Recipe for the Perfect Campfire
There is certainly no better time to write this blog than now, sitting among my family and friends enjoying the glowing embers, the quiet evening, and the nearly cloudless night sky.  What makes the perfect campfire? someone asked.  As with any question a variety of opinions quickly cropped up, but I-being one of the most vocal in the group-think I have come up with the recipe for a perfect campfire.  A tall order to fill, my sister quickly pointed out, but I have heard little in terms of disagreement.

As with most camping trips, the day will start shortly after the sun rises, a multitude of possibilities for how to spend the coming hours lie before you.  Will you be hiking? Spending the day on the water? Enjoying a picnic? A scenic drive? A short trip into a neighboring town? Fishing? Reading a book that has been on your list for longer than you would care to admit? Or simply spending time with those around you? Any way you spin it, the perfect campfire starts with a day filled with relaxing activity that takes your mind off of the daily stressors you have put aside for the weekend.

The heat of the day is finally wearing off, maybe you are just about to make dinner or maybe you just finished a taste bud pleasing dish.  The bugs are settling in, and it is time to reclaim your once pleasant campsite.  As a child, I was taught that there are two easy options for setting up a fire, the "tent" and the "log cabin."  The names give away more than they should, one of these layouts is very sturdy but a little harder to get burning; and, the other, though not a clear winner on stability will go up in flames in half the time.    Once the logs are on fire, it is simply a matter of maintaining the flames-that is until you are ready to begin the cooking of one of the world's best desserts.

Next up is a variety of great conversations, games, memories, and of course the guitar is brought out for some of your favorite tunes.  Nothing serves as a better bonding agent than the singing of off-key songs, at least that is how it works in our family.  The best however, is yet to come.  S'mores! S'mores are a delectable, culturally significant, camping icon.  I would almost go as far to say that if you have not had a perfectly cooked s'more you have not lived, or at the very least, you have been missing out.  Your stomachs are now officially filled to maximum capacity, and the sun has finally set.  Many would argue that this collection offers the perfect combination and would qualify as a top notch campfire.  Unfortunately, you would be wrong to stop here.  

What would a campfire be without the telling of creatively devious tales that rest on the edge of plausibility, and leave you questioning your safety, sanity, and motives.  From creatures that go bump in the night and Halloween style monsters to talking snowmen and friendly forest animals, there is no limit to the portal you may step through.  I have found this to be increasingly true when you allow the youngsters of the group to take over the twisting plot.  Once everyone has had a chance to give their two cents, silence takes over.  Nothing left in the fire pit but embers, you realize that there is very little that could compete with this experience, the perfect campfire.  Quietly you glance from the embers to the starry sky above and appreciate all that nature has to offer.    
Southwest Montana has a wonderful selection of campgrounds to choose from, check out our campground finder to plan your perfect camping adventure today.




The More Things Change, the More they Stay the Same: a History of Camping
With camping season in full swing, I thought I might write a piece about how camping has changed over the years. Turns out, it hasn't. Oh sure, superficially some things have changed, but overall, not much is different between camping today, and camping a hundred years ago. It is reassuring to know that in all the ways the world has improved, in all the ways the world has gotten worse, camping remains much the same as it has always been; dirty, complicated, inconvenient, uncomfortable, and worth every minute.

In 1883, Margie Cruikshank set off from her home in Minnesota to spend two weeks in Yellowstone National Park. While there, she discovered what any Montanan could have told her: August in Yellowstone means that the tourists are out in full force, and that most of the water features have dried up for the season. She also discovered that the Park was "beautiful enough for a poet's dream," but we already knew that too. Visitors to the park that season included President Chester A. Arthur and entourage, and Rufus Hatch, who was schmoozing not one, but two, groups of railroad officials and promoters, trying to drum up investments for his Yellowstone Improvement Company. At Norris Geyser Basin, Cruikshank described seventy people trying to fit into accommodations designed for eight. The modern visitor to the Park sympathizes. As anyone familiar with SouthWest Montana or the Yellowstone region know, rain is a seasonal thing, and August is not its season. The dust and heat Cruikshank described is more than familiar to anyone who has ever camped in the area, and given the conditions, it's not surprising to read that many of the smaller paintpots had dried up. Still, she wrote in ecstasy, "earth could no furnish another such beautiful sight," and she departed quite enamored with the Park.

Thirty years after Cruikshank, Dorothy Johnson was a teenager in Whitefish, Montana. Like any self-respecting Whitefish-ian, Johnson spent her summers in the mountains of western Montana, and, like any good camper, teenage Johnson seems to have tended toward enthusiastic ineptitude. Johnson recognized flexibility as key to camping. Who knows what might happen? The person in charge of the horse carrying the food might wander off, forcing you to survive a night and a day on nothing but bacon. Skinny dippers might suddenly appear in an uninhabited lake. Your sense of direction might not be nearly as good as you always said. Or you might chance upon a remote stream and a tiny beach covered in brown-gold butterflies that alight on you "wing-quivering, in such hordes that [you think you] too might fly."

The final contribution to our theme of "the more things change, the more camping stays the same" comes from Kathryn Stephen Wright who, in 1922, set off with her aunt and her friend on a road trip from Missoula to California. The journey had all the hallmarks of an ideal road trip. Meaning to start the last week of May, the trio didn't depart until June 2nd, because a sudden snowstorm had closed all of the roads out of Missoula. When they finally got ready to depart, they found they had twice as much stuff as room to put it. They compensated in part by spreading their bedding out on the back seat, and shoving odd ends of luggage wherever they could find room. Packing a car defies whatever sort of organizational method you may have started with. Later on, she describes spending an hour in the pouring rain on a muddy road outside of Dell, shoving sage brush under the tires to try and get traction. For all her talk of oil cans and pumping up tires by hand, Wright's trip seems like it could have taken place last week. In fact, the last camping trip I went on, I sat on an unrolled sleeping bag in the back seat, clutching a box of cooking utensils on my lap.

Honest descriptions of camping owe more to Pat McManus than to Ernest Hemmingway. Show me someone who claims to have had a camping trip where nothing went wrong, or no essential item was left at home, where the road was in perfect condition and there was no one else about, and I'll show you a person with a highly selective memory. Of course, campers need selective memories. We need to be able to recall the butterfly-and-beach moments so that we can brag to our friends, and we need to remember the stuck-in-the-mud moments so that when the time comes (usually no more than 40 or 50 year later) we can look back and laugh at how much fun we had.




Park to Park Memories
In honor of the coming centennial of the National Parks Service, SouthWest Montana bloggers Bert and Katya sat down to share some of their favorite memories of visiting Montana's National Parks. During the conversation, the same topics kept coming up. Below is an edited version of the conversation:

On driving:
Nearly all of my memories from Yellowstone stem around a whirlwind day trip through the park.  On a mission to see all of the sights and sounds, we wove our way through the park, stopping only for the most notable landmarks: the Painted Pots, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, and of course Old Faithful.  A picnic in the car, and the tales of my parents and grandmother's childhood visits to the park kept us entertained as we stared out the window.

We made it all the way from Two Medicine to Kiowa Junction (15 whole miles!) and the transmission on our van went out. So there we were. Sitting in the parking lot of the Kiowa store (Kiowa, in case you didn't know, consists entirely of the store and the parking lot). Luckily we also had a truck, two of our number hitched the van to the truck and headed toward Helena, to try and get the van fixed. How did we get back from Kiowa? I am not sure. We clearly made it back, but all I remember is sitting in the parking lot, waiting. We crammed into other vehicles and made the drive over Going-to-the-Sun. Because transmission or no transmission, a Glacier trip without Going-to-the-Sun is simply inconceivable.

On hiking:

When you think about visiting a national park, one of the first things that may come to mind is hiking, it's the perfect way to stay active, spend time with the family, and continue to explore some of the "best kept secrets" in the parks.  In 2005 (when my sister was 4 years old), our family, grandparents included, decided that during our annual trip to Glacier we would hike Dawson Pass starting from the Two Medicine campground. A 9 mile hike that would gain 2500 feet, and provide a spectacular view from the ridge of the Continental Divide looking into the valleys below.  Although completing the Dawson Pass hike was a feat that will always be remembered, the preparation for the trip holds even more memories. Countless hikes up Mount Helena were mastered--actually, countless consecutive hikes up the mountain were mastered. According to our grandfather, we really needed to ensure that we were prepared for the elevation gain.  The obvious course of action was to then hike the same mountain, the same trail twice.

On escaping reality:

When I was in third grade, some relatives made a trip from Sweden, and wanted to spend time in Yellowstone. So one Friday my parents took me out of school around lunchtime (I told everyone I was going to the Grand Canyon, in retrospect, I'm not sure I made it clear that I was headed to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone). I remember a sky the color of granite and flurries of snow that melted on contact. I also remember realizing for the first time that we would take the same road to get to Virginia City as we did to get to Yellowstone. We made it to the campground with huge wet flakes falling around us. We went into the RV for a quick snack, and realized we couldn't go out again. A herd of bison and their calves had decided to take up residence in our campground. We brewed more hot chocolate, and whiled away the day watching the snow fall thickly on the hides of the bison.

Glacier lakes, carved out by the giant ice fields that gave the park its name, have a tendency to drop off quickly from the shore, making them the perfect place to dive in… that is as long as you can handle the cold temperatures!  Swimming has always been a featured aspect of our trips, but the memories that I will keep forever are sitting on the shore with my grandpa learning to skip rocks.  In those moments, nothing else mattered.  The lake was still, the mountains stood as guardians, and nothing could break the serenity of the moment.

For the bloggers at SouthWest Montana, all parks stories are SouthWest Montana stories. All parks stories begin and end in SouthWest Montana. Whether we are preparing for our trips by hiking hometown hills, or desperately trying to salvage a trip with a quick 3 hour trip to a Helena mechanic, SouthWest Montana always features in our tales of adventure, in the parks and beyond.  




Park to Park: 10 Things to See Along the Way

Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier

One of the most popular road trips in the state is to drive from one National Park to the other, but this trek from Yellowstone to Glacier covers over 270 miles, leaving plenty of exploration between the two! Here are some suggestions for what to do on the original route from Park to Park!

So here we go, a trip from West Yellowstone to East Glacier:

1. Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center | West Yellowstone, MT
The Center is an AZA (American Zooliogical Association) accredited non-profit. It takes bears, wolves, and raptors that couldn't survive in the wild-either because they were orphaned, problems, injured, or bred in captivity-and gives them stimulating natural homes.

2. Norris Hot Springs | Norris, MT
Norris Hot Springs, or the self-proclaimed "water of the gods" is a geothermal feature located along the Madison River.  Native Americans were known to use the springs for healing purposes before the time of the white settlers; then, in the 1860s, miners built the original pool.  This is a great stop for a soak and an opportunity to take in the beautiful landscape, that some are lucky enough to call home.

3. Lewis & Clark Caverns | Whitehall, MT
The Lewis & Clark Caverns are Montana's first State Park and offers a beautiful campground, trailhead, discovery center, and of course tour of the caverns.  The caverns have been shaped by the water in the area.  Drop by drop the beautiful formations of stalagmites and stalactites have increased in size, number and majesty.  This tour is roughly 2 miles long, and winds through an amazing natural formation.

4. Tizer Botanic Gardens & Arboretum | Jefferson City, MT
Set on 6 acres of land, Tizer Gardens offer an array of beautiful gardens to explore.  While visiting, don't miss the Rose Garden, Wildflower Walk, Children's Garden, or the Secret Garden.  This is the perfect place to pull off for a peaceful picnic lunch, stretch your legs, and appreciate all that nature has to offer.

Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum Montana

5. Cathedral of St. Helena | Helena, MT
The ground for the Cathedral was purchased and donated by Thomas Cruse in 1905, construction started in 1908 and it was completed June of 1924.  The architect, Mr. A. O. Von Herbulis, suggested a Gothic style for the building which was then approved by the Building Committee and Advisory Board.  Today, the Cathedral is open for tours and will not fail to strike your hearts with awe.

6. Archie Bray Foundation | Helena, MT
This institute was founded in 1951, as an environment to stimulate creativity in ceramic arts.  This institute is internationally renowned as a "gathering place for emerging and established ceramic artists."  You are free to wander around the grounds, poke your head in several studios, participate in Helena's Geotour, and appreciate the wonderful history that surrounds you.

7. Gates of the Mountains | Helena, MT
The Gates of the Mountains boat tour is a Helena staple, offering insight to the history of the beautiful area.  A collection of stories, pictographs, rock formations, disasters, and discovery mark the land.  In 1805, the Corps of Discovery paddled their boats through the area, watching the rocky cliffs appear to open and close their way of passage.  In his journal, Meriwether Lewis wrote "I shall call this place: Gates of the Mountains."

Museum of the Plains Indian, Browning Montana

8. Two Medicine Dinosaur Center | Bynum, MT
This center was established in 1995, and since its conception has brought in over 5,000 visitors a year.  TMDC is a nonprofit dedicated to providing a hands on educational experience to their visitors.  In addition to their exhibits, the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center offers a unique opportunity to participate in an actual dinosaur dig, where you will learn field procedures, fossil recognition, excavation procedures, and area history.

9. Museum of the Plains Indian | Browning, MT
As you enter into the land of the Blackfeet, you may be interested in learning more about the Native American culture and influence in the area.  This museum highlights a variety of historic objects that were essential to the everyday lives of various Indian Tribes across the United States.  Founded in 1941, this museum rich in history, artwork, and culture has helped to education many passing through the area.

10. Glacier Park Lodge | East Glacier, MT
Nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountain Front, the Glacier Park Lodge has served as a natural stopping point for visitors since the opening of the park in 1910.  This lodge was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1912 to satisfy the demand created by the travel.  Located just miles outside of the entrance to the park, this beautiful building is the perfect place to make a quick stop for a bite to eat, a souvenir, a step back in time, a quick cup of coffee, or a nice resting place for the evening, before finishing your journey from Park to Park.





The Benton Road

 The route from Yellowstone to Glacier meets all the requirements of a perfect road-trip road: it is well maintained, it's short enough to allow for plenty of stops along the way, the scenery is spectacular, and it is bookended by the best National Parks in the west. The route also follows one of the oldest and most important trails in Montana: the Benton Road.   

By 1843, Fort Benton was, technically the most inland seaport in the world, because you could take a boat from Fort Benton all the way down the Missouri and Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic. In the late 1850s, the army put Captain John Mullan, already an accomplished road-builder and explorer in the area, in charge of building a road between Fort Benton and Walla Walla, Washington. The Mullan Trail followed the Missouri from Fort Benton, through the Wolf Creek Canyon, and into the Helena valley before turning west to Missoula and beyond. Mullan had established this route in the early 1850s, but the construction of the Trail allowed him to survey and expand the road.

With the 1862 discovery of gold in Bannack, enterprising freighters realized the advantage of a road that linked Bannack to Fort Benton. So they made roads from the Helena Valley south to Bannack. The discovery of gold in Alder Gulch came quick on the heels of the Bannack discovery, and the "Benton Road" became established: branching south from the Mullan Trail in the Helena Valley, running south through the Boulder River Valley and into the Madison River Valley before turning west through Alder Gulch and into the Beaverhead Valley to Bannack. The Benton Road proved even more useful with the discovery of gold in Last Chance Gulch in 1864 since the road already went right through the Helena Valley. However, the road did not go into the Gulch itself-it was much too crowded for wagon teams-and it didn't follow the route of present-day Benton Avenue.

Beyond Helena, Highway 287 branches off from the Mullan Trail, following instead the much older "Old North Trail" that runs abreast of the Rocky Mountain Front and was used extensively by the Blackfeet and other Native tribes.  

Bannack, Virginia City, and Helena were all capitals of Montana in their turn. They were also the sites of the three most important gold discoveries in Montana, and some of the largest placer gold deposits in the country. The Benton Road became a well-travelled thoroughfare-the backbone of the state. The road also linked Montana to the rest of the world. At its northern end, the road linked to the Missouri River. At its southern end, the road linked to a trail to branches of the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and, in 1869, the Union Pacific Railroad. Trade goods and settlers streamed into Montana from both ends of the Benton Road.

As you drive from Yellowstone to Glacier, you follow the Benton Road-first on Highway 287, then Highway 69, then Interstate 15-all the way to Wolf Creek. As you drive, try to imagine the stage coaches, mule trains, and freight wagons that followed the same route: without asphalt or air conditioning, crossing and re-crossing Prickly Pear Creek; thousands of travelers and millions of dollars of gold wending their way through the heart of early Montana.  


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