Fort Benton, Montana
The oldest town in Montana, Fort Benton is an interesting place to stop if you're in Central Montana. There are a number of historic buildings, museums, and a nice park along the Missouri River.
Lewis and Clark passed through here on their epic journey to the Pacific Ocean. The town was founded because it is located at the furthest you can navigate up the Missouri River by stramboat. In it's heyday, Fort Benton was a busy, rowdy town full of the hustle and bustle of the steamboat trade. The fortunes of the town declined rapidly when the Northern Pacific was built, eliminating the need for goods and people to travel up the river to Fort Benton.
Windseekr's new Fort Benton Page
Lewis and Clark sculpture located on the banks of the Missouri river in Fort Benton, Montana.
I had a nice weekend driving around Montana. Over the past couple years, I have been trying to absorb as much historical information about the Lewis and Clark - Corp. of Discovery Expedition (1804-1806). With the Bicentenial celebrations of the Corp. of Discovery expedition approaching (from St. Louis to Long Beach, Washington), I have been trying to educate myself for my own benefit, and before the 3 year event begins.
This past weekend I finally made it to Fort Benton, Montana. It is the oldest established town in
Montana. The town is very quaint, and inhabited by mostly local business merchant's and farming/ranching families. It is nestled below the plateau overlooking the Missouri river plane, and essentially not visable from any highway vantage. The town folk are wonderful people - nice, friendly, talkative, and most of all - just regular folks making an honest living at farming. Some of the residents live period homes from late 1800's to the early 1900's. Ironically, I happened into town on the first day of their county fair, so everyone was pretty much out at the fair grounds. I made it to the rodeo Friday evening and afterward, I made camp along the Missouri river, from which I had the best nights sleep in a month. It felt so good to sleep like that. I woke up and took a very nice, medium length run along the Missouri, and through town. After a wonderful, small town cafe' breakfast experience, I walked around town taking photographs, and I visted the Museum of the Upper Missouri River.
Another part of my motivation for traveling to Fort Benton was to learn about two very famous explorations. Besides the Corp. of Discovery, there was a person, Captain John Mullan who was commissioned to build the Mullan Road (more than 600 miles of road) connecting the transit center of Fort Benton, and the Missouri river, to Walla Walla, Washington on the Columbia river. John Mullan began, what is now labled as the "National Historic Engineering Landmark", in Fort Benton. It took him and his crew about 6-7 years to complete (approxiamately 50 years following Lewis and Clark). I have a lot of first hand knowledge of the Mullan trail, since the engineering feat passes through St. Regis enroute to Walla Walla. I have had the opportunity to see some of the original wagon tread, overgrown and unaltered except by nature, that exists on my area.