In spite of drizzle and clouds since this is our last day in Great Falls, we drove the 40 miles north to visit the town of Fort Benton and the old fort site which has been restored.
Fort Benton is considered the birthplace of Montana and the fort was established as a fur trading post in 1846. The first bridge in Montana across the Missouri was built here and in 1855 the US government established the first Blackfoot Agency. When the smallpox decimated the Blackfoot in the early 1860's, people began building a town outside the fort. In 1864 the American Fur Trading Company sold the fort and went out of business. Fort Benton remained a military post until its closure in 1881 leaving many buildings in dilapidated states.
|Drawing of Old Fort Benton|
|Scale Model of Fort|
|Entrance to Fort|
|Trade Store and Storehouse|
When the first steamboats arrived in 1860, Fort Benton became the head of navigation on the Missouri and one of Montana's most important towns. Today the fort is in the process of being restored.
There are two museums within the fort filled with period furnishings,buffalo robes, trinkets. The Bourgeois House is home now to the Starr Gallery which features Karl Bodmer's Travels into the Interior of North America collection. There is also a history of the Blackfoot and their part in the trading process .
|Dance of the Beaver|
|Signage about the Dance|
|Explanation of Blackfoot Burial|
|Sculpture of Burial|
|Recipe for High Wine|
|Exhibit of Fur Trade with Blackfoot|
After touring the fort we walked along the Missouri taking in some of the historic sights and markers. One that caught my eye was a bronze statue of Shep, the faithful shepherd dog who followed his master's casket to the train depot. He met every train for 5 1/2 years until he was feeble and fell under the wheels of a train. He is buried on the bluff behind the depot. Note the train rail under his paws on the statue.
|Statue of Shep on Rail|
The Grand Union Hotel was first opened in 1882 and known for its elegance. It has been restored and is open for guests.
|Union Hotel Sign|
Near the hotel is the first bridge in Montana across the Missouri.
|Bridge Across Missouri|
There is replica of the Mandan Keelboat near the fort. This replica was built for the movie "Big Sky". The original Mandan's last voyage was in 1921.
|Replica of Mandan Keelboat|
We toured the Upper Missouri Interpretive Center that features the rifle surrendered by Chief Joseph to Generals Howard and Miles after an uprising due to broken treaty with the Nez Perce.
|Chief Joseph Rifle|
|Signage History of Failed Treaty|
There are many more historic sites in the town, but downpour sent us back to campground in Great Falls.
Before going to the campground we drove to Giant Springs SP just down from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
The Springs was first documented by Lewis and Clark in 1805. It is one of the largest freshwater springs and flows into one of the shortest rivers in the US. The Roe river is 201 ft long and flows into the Missouri, the longest river in the US at 2540 miles. This is 200 miles longer than the Mississippi. Temperature of the springs is a constant 54 degrees. 156 million gallons of water flow into the Roe each day.
|Flowing into the Roe|
Before retiring viewed a beautiful sunset over campground. Good sign for our departure tomorrow to Missoula.
|Amazing Sunset Over Malmstrom AFB|