Central Montana's Travel Blog

RECENT POSTS

View Archives

 

APR

24

Discovering Dinosaurs - Digs, Displays and Museums
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Dino OTMMontana has had some incredibly significant discoveries of fossils, most noteworthy are the dinosaur bones. Fourteen areas have joined together to form the Montana Dinosaur Trail coverning eastern, central and southwest Montana.

This past weekend I met with the members of the Montana Dinosaur Trail and I'd like to share some information about a few of them.

If you are traveling on US Hwy 2 from the North Dakota border and traveling west you could stop at six different museums and interpretive centers with amazing dinosaur displays.

Some of the facilities are focused entirely on dinosaurs - others are county museums that have had significant dinosaur "finds" in their area. Following are a few of the facilities you'll find in Central Montana.

If you were at the Blaine County Museum in Chinook you would see a Gorgosaurus, an Ankylosaurus and remnants of giant marine reptiles. In the lower level of the museum there is a Look, Touch and Wonder Room - fun for kids and adults alike. While not dinosaur or fossil related, the Blaine County Museum has incredible displays about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce battle that Seismosaur hallioccurred south of the town.

Havre's H. Earl Clack Museum is located in the Holiday Village Shopping Mall adjacent to US Hwy 2. Most of their focus is on area history but that includes a Lambeosaur skull (think...duckbill dino) and 75 million year old dinosaur eggs and embryos. Oh yeah, that's old!

Behind the building where the Clack museum is housed is Wahkpa Chu'gn, an archeology lover's paradise. This buffalo jump is an education in itself where you can see layers of earth that tell the history of the area.

The Depot Museum in Rudyard, further west on US Hwy 2, has several buildings with one building devoted to dinosaurs. A fully articulated Gryposaurus is the feature display (named because Rudyard claims to have 596 nice people and old ole "sorehead"). This museum is an affiliate of the noted Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.

Just south of the junction of US Hwy 2 and 89 is the little town of Bynum (pop 33). If you have ever wanted to get "in the dirt" to do dinosaur research, this is your place! 

The first baby dinosaur bones found in North America were found near the Bynum/Choteau area on the Dino digRocky Mountain Front and they are displayed at Two Medicine Dinosaur Center in Bynum.

Two Medicine also does half-day to 10-day hands on digs and research. I've done several of these and each time I learn more about dinosaurs and research. Two Medicine also has an impressive bone prep lab located in the dinosaur center.

Thirteen miles south of Bynum on US Hwy 89 is Choteau and the Old Trail Museum. The Old Trail has a Maiasaura (that translates to "good mother lizard" and it is the name of our official Montana dinosaur).

At the Old Trail Museum you'll also learn some geologic information about the Rocky Mountain Front where these dinosaur fossils have been found. Native American history and area history are both displayed and interpreted inside the museum. Small  buildings adjacent to the main museum round out the well designed displays at the Old Trail.

The next stop on the dinosaur trail in Central Montana takes you southeast to Harlowton, Montana. Located at the junction of Hwys 12 and 191, the Upper Musselshell Museum displays a replica cast of the Dino bone prepAvaceratops Lammersi found in the Judith River Formation near Shawmut, Montana (a few miles east of Harlowton).   

I have personally visited every one of the museums mentioned above. Each time I return to the museums I learn something new. In another year or so I plan to start taking my grandkids and sharing my dino experiences with them.

Find more information on all fourteen facilities on the Montana Dinosaur Trail and enjoy this great learning experience.

 

0 Comments


APR

23

Lake Frances - Birds, Boats and a Surprise
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


fishing lake francesI was on my way to a meeting last week where the route took me through Valier. My plans were to try and get photos of sunset over Lake Frances on the west edge of Valier but I was too early.

Instead of being disappointed I found lots of photo ops that I hadn't even considered.

First of all, everyone goes to Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area between Fairfield and Choteau to view the snowgoose migration. I must say, it is spectacular at Freezout, but Lake Frances had some late snowgeese too.

With camera and iPhone in tow, I parked my car on the east side of the lake and started walking. It was so peaceful, quiet and serene until...I came up on some young birds. I'm guessing they were young grouse or possibly hungarian partridges. They waited, probably hoping I would go away, then when I was about 3 yards from them they flew. Yikes, I wasn't expecting that on this calm and quiet afternoon! I was able to get another look at them on my return to the car and made my way cautiously towards them and watched them fly again.

 

snowgoose lake francesThere was one fishing boat on Lake Frances this Saturday afternoon with three fishermen. I didn't get to visit with them to see if their day had produced anything for the frying pan but even if it didn't, a day on the lake is...better than not being there!

Lake Frances is a popular summer fishing water and also an excellent location for ice fishing. This past winter the ice didn't hold and Valier's annual ice fishing derby had to be cancelled.

Lakeside camping is available at Lake Frances with well maintained campsites. I saw two self contained fifth wheel units there and I'm guessing they might have belonged to the fishermen on the lake. The campground really is lakeside yet you are literally blocks away from restaurants, a grocery store and convenience store with gas and fishing gear.

Valier also has a small motel and The Stone School Inn, a bed and breakfast in a former Valier school. 

I was able to get a few photos of the snowgeese and when I thought about it, Valier has everything a migrating bird would want - water at the lake and grain fields all around it.

I love to see the black tipped wings on the snowgeese when they fly. The birds were putting on a show for me and giving me plenty of opportunities to take photos.  

My brief 45 minute stop at Lake Frances put me in a good frame of mind and I continued on for another couple of hours to my final destination, thankful I took a little time to stop at this small community treasure.

 

 

 

0 Comments


APR

4

Freezout Lake WMA on a Cloudy Day
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Pond at FreezoutA week ago I looked at my schedule and decided I had better plan an outing to Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area for spring bird migration. The recorded message for the state Wildlife Management Area said the birds were coming in smaller groups, not such big waves and this was probably due to early warm weather.

We've had an incredibly mild winter, and I'm not complaining about that, but I also realize what it does to our wildlife and vegetation. And, there's that little issue of moisture too.

I woke up an hour earlier than usual so I could be on the road and at Freezout by sunrise. I checked the forecast before I left my house and it didn't look great - major cloud cover, 80% chance of rain. But, sometimes that changes and things clear off. I was ready - cameras and warm jacket packed, coffee in my go-cup, and a banana.  

It was still dark so I was taking the attitude of an optimist - things could get much better when the sun comes up (a small quote from the musical Annie!). As I drove north on US Hwy 89 nothing changed although it wasn't bright enough yet to tell if the clouds were going to part.

My entire take on the day was - a cloudy and crisp weather day out birdwatching is better than no day at all out of the office!

Freezout foggy dayI did see quite a few birders, many with out of area license plates, so I hope they had also been able to birdwatch on some clear days. The entire Wildlife Management Area was peaceful and serene and I just let that shape my take on the outing. 

My favorite photo of the day had an incredibly foggy background, a few birds swimming on one of the ponds and you could see a silhouette of several trees. So pretty!

I'm heading in the same direction in a few days for a meeting in Choteau and I just may leave a couple hours early and take the tour route at Freezout.  

Yes, I love my job! 

0 Comments


MAR

25

Russell Auction Breaks All Records
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Russell Auction Tracy and LyleThe C. M. Russell Museum's The Russell: An Exhibition and Sale to Benefit the C. M. Russell Museum had a record-breaking weekend March 17-19, 2016.

Their annual event consisted of three auctions starting with Art In Action Friday morning and early afternoon, then the First Strike Auction Friday night and ending with Saturday night's The Russell: An Exhibition and Sale to Benefit the C. M. Russell Museum. That Saturday night event title is record-breaking in length!

Both evening auctions were located at The Mansfield Event Center in downtown Great Falls. Friday night's event was a bit more casual but by Saturday night, boots were polished a little shinier, blue jeans were replaced by glitzy dresses and suits, and I saw some gals in stilleto heels that looked stunning but slightly uncomfortable!

There were 150 lots auctioned Saturday night. Some auctioneer's voices tend to grate on me but this guy was good! He could engage the bidders and his spotters were lively and attentive to the crowd.

A Thomas Moran oil painting of Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming was the talk of town preceding the auction. It was painted in 1907 and the sales range was estimated between $3.5 and 4.5 million dollars. That's a lot Russell Auction from aboveof money! It sold for $3.6 million which is the highest amount ever paid at the Russell Auction.

Twelve C. M. Russell paintings were on the auction block. Two of them sold for $800,000 each - Indian With Bow (c. 1900) and Grizzly at Close Range (c. 1901). All twelve Russells were sold - a testimony that America's Cowboy Artist can still generate a lot of interest with art collectors.

The Russell events are part of Western Art Week in Great Falls. At one of the art events I overheard someone say "why March"? About three people answered and said "the art events are typically the third weekend in March, the weekend nearest to Charlie Russell's birthday".   

Congrats to the many volunteers and staff who worked to make this event a huge success - not only for the museum but for Great Falls and Central Montana. 

   

0 Comments


MAR

21

Western Art Week in Great Falls
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Wester Heritage Art ShowThis past weekend was Western Art Weekend in Great Falls, Montana. The city becomes the Western Art Capital of the World during the third weekend in March which is nearest to Charlie Russell's birthday.

Great Falls claims Russell although he was born in Missouri and came to the area when he was sixteen. He spent the first few years working as a cowboy and night wrangler, painting while he could. Some historians say it was living this life that made his images so realistic - I tend to agree.

The C. M. Russell Museum is located in Great Falls and it houses the largest collection of Russell's works. Charlie and Nancy Russell's home is located on the one block complex and it is a National Historic Landmark.  

The first event I attended this past week was the Western Heritage Artists Show and Sale at the Holiday Inn. Nearly 90 artists exhibited in hotel rooms which were open to the public to wander in and hopefully purchase art.

They also had an excellent lobby show with a variety of art in different mediums. I liked the metal sculpted fisherman. Well, I liked a LOT of the art!

Art In ActionThe next event I attended was Art In Action at the Meadowlark Country Club.

Twenty six artists worked at their easels while attendees mingled among them, taking photos, asking questions and watching the creations come to life. I'd be a nervous wreck with all of that activity but I think most of the artists enjoyed a chance to explain the processes they use to create their art and, to visit with potential buyers of their art.

After a couple of hours at Art In Action all artists stop and their work was auctioned. One hundred percent of the proceeds of the auction went to the Russell Museum

Art In Action is an annual event and it is part of The Russell: Sale to Benefit the C. M. Russell Museum. It is a sell-out and I love going to it.

I had a plan to get to many more art venues but I only managed to squeeze one more in after Art In Action. I went over to Montana Expo Park and wandered through the Great Western Living and Design Show.

This show probably has the most unique art of all seventeen shows that were held this past weekend. From horseshoe art to stunning wood furniture to Native American art - quite a variety. I recognized a couple of the weavers and spinners but most of the other artists were new to me.  

Valentina LapierValentina LaPier from Browning, Montana created this beautiful painted chair. You certainly wouldn't want to sit in it but gosh, what talent, and what a conversation piece if I had that in my house!

The Great Western Living and Design Show also has a nice variety of entertainment. I watched Native American dancers one night and would have enjoyed single musicians and a full band the next couple of evenings. Too many things to see and do!  

So far Western Art Week has been fun - I'm going to see how many more shows I can get to.

Stay tuned! 

 

 

 

0 Comments


FEB

23

An Afternoon at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Blackfeet DarrelThe other day I took a few minutes to stop in to Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art and see their current exhibitions. I've missed most of the opening receptions lately because of conflicts and I was eager to get a glimpse of what they have displayed.
 
And, I was not disappointed!
 
The Blackfeet Portrait Project was very impressive and I even recognized a few of the people featured in the exhibit. One of my favorite pieces was of a buffalo (bison) done by one of the artists who was featured in a portrait.
 
The artist on this project was Cheryl Dineen Ferrin and she did portraits of Blackfeet artists and their work. There are 22 works of art in this traveling exhibition. Eleven are actual portraits of Blackfeet artists and then there is one piece of each artist's work displayed.
 
My favorite exhibit though was titled "The West: Recent Oil Paintings by Alan McNiel". McNiel is a Montana artist and he painted scenes from original photos, mostly of downtowns and old buildings in several states.
 
painging of elevatorA press release about the exhibit says that one day these scenes will be about life in the "old west" and I as watch some downtowns change I think that is correct. Fourteen paintings include eleven from Montana locales (2 from Missoula, 2 from Bozeman, and one each from Great Falls, Plains, Browning, Troy, Kalispell, Butte and Thompson Falls). Other states represented in the paintings are Idaho (2 paintings) and one in New Mexico.
 
All of McNiel's paintings are incredibly charming. As I studied the one titled Snowy Afternoon in Great Falls I was sure it was painted near my home. If it wasn't, well, I'll never know because I'm not going to try to find out.
 
I love wandering around the old building that was once a school and now houses Great Falls' contemporary art museum. The old floors creak a bit although they are shined and polished. The signs on the restrooms say "Boys" and "Girls" and the door handles are lower so kids would have been able to reach them. The exhibit rooms are intimate and there are very tempting items in the gift shop...yes, I love this place. 
 

0 Comments


JAN

20

Hot Springs Soak in White Sulphur Springs
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


pool at spa hot springsAhh...spa...a soak in the hot springs at the Spa Hot Springs Motel in White Sulphur Springs is just what I needed!

I had spent a few hours on snowshoes in the Little Belt Mountains and a soak in the hot springs was tempting me. I had planned ahead and packed my swim suit and towel although I could have rented them at the Spa Hot Springs Motel.

It was a chilly day, the late afternoon temp was about 20 degrees, and I knew I'd have a couple of brisk moments getting from the dressing room to the pool. There are two large outdoor pools, one hot and the other hotter! I chose the hottest for my first soak.

At first it seemed too hot and I was only half submerged. About 30 seconds later there was nothing but my head bobbing above water and I was loving the soothing water.

After the hottest pool I went to the not-so-hot pool, still pretty warm though. I didn't do the hot tub but I've sat in in before.

Everyone seemed to be having such a good time. The crowd was mostly adults and teens but there were some younger kids with parents.

A few details if you plan to soak at the Spa Hot Springs Motel - you pay your fee ($7) at the lobby desk at the motel, sign in, and spa poolnote the time you entered. Inside there are dressing rooms with a shower.

The pools were completely renovated a couple of years ago. Water in the pools actually needs to be cooled down before it is usable. There is a slight sulphur odor but most people find that it gives the body a little therapy too.

There are no chemicals added to the water in the pools and they are all drained every night, 365 days a year. That's pretty amazing!

White Sulphur Springs was considered to be the Valley of Peace by the Native Americans who visited the area and warring tribes did not fight in the area. Backgound murals at the Spa Hot Springs pools depict the Native American influence.

If you stay overnight in one of the motel rooms at the Spa Hot Springs Motel you don't pay to soak. But, if you just want to stop in for a soak that's easy to do. You don't need a reservation - just show up, pay your fee and get ready to soak!  

  

0 Comments


JAN

8

Snowshoeing in the Little Belt Mountains
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Silver CrestLast weekend I began my Saturday with reading a list of things to do. While I was debating which task to start first, a friend called and asked if I wanted to go snowshoeing at Silver Crest Cross Country Ski Area near Kings Hill Pass.

Well, I didn't take too long to respond with a "yes" and then I said I could be ready in 30 minutes. Boy, did I scramble! I hadn't been on my snowshoes since last year. I knew they were in the garage but somehow, summer stuff gets in the way - hoses, rakes, lawnmower - all were stacked in front of winter gear.

I'm thankful my snowshoes are bright orange and easily spotted. Poles were next, then, what to wear. The weatherman predicted it would be sunny which makes any day feel warmer. A few layers were packed in my tote bag along with some water and snacks. Out the door I went with not even a glance back at the list of chores on the counter.

snowshoe KathyUS Hwy 89 was mostly clear of snow, although there was just a bit when we got close to Kings Hill Pass. The parking lot at the winter recreation area had a few cars and it looked like almost everybody was going cross country skiing. 

I strapped in to my snowshoes, forgot my water bottle in the car in my tote, but had my camera.

Off we went on one of the marked trails and in about 2 minutes we were in beautiful fluffy snow surrounded by tall pine trees. And, quiet and solitude. What a good feeling! 

We did encounter two different groups of people snowshoeing but that certainly didn't make it crowded. In fact, we took the opportunity to catch our breath and stop and visit with each group. 

As we worked our way back to the trailhead we saw a few more X-C skiers Snowshoe grouopstarting on trails and I could hear more vehicle activity in the parking lot. It was tempting to turn around and do the trail all over again. 

Well, I was thirsty and eager to get to the snacks I had packed. I was also ready to rest! 

This weekend I'd like to do that all over again.

We'll see if snowshoeing wins out over the to-do list.

 

0 Comments


DEC

28

Sunrise Views (and more) From Benton Lake NWR
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Benton lake sunriseI drove north of Great Falls to Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge the other day in search of some beautiful and unobstructed sunrise views. The drive to the refuge, which is managed by US Fish & Wildlife Service, is a short twelve miles from Great Falls, all paved until you turn in to the refuge.

I kept looking to the east, planning for the best sunrise photo of the day. After about 5 miles I stopped at a roadside pull-out, grabbed my camera and stepped out in to the crisp morning breeze. OK, it was more than a breeze blowing across that beautiful grassland. I had taken my bulky jacket off when I got in my warm car so I took a couple of quick photos and jumped back in the car. The jacket was immediately put on and zipped to my neck!

No worries about not getting some good sunrise photos though - the views just kept getting more impressive as I traveled along. The Highwood Mountains were serving as a backdrop to the ever-changing sunrise and I made a LOT of stops and took quite a few photos.

Benton Lake auto tourThe refuge was quiet with just a few vehicles at the administration office, probably staff getting ready for the day. I took the auto tour route although, as it weaved in different directions I kept glancing back at the sunrise. My final sunrise-photo-stop was rewarding and I silently praised myself for getting another great view. As I turned to get back in my vehicle I missed what was probably the best photo of the day. A large white bird which I'm sure was a snowy owl, took off from a fence post and my camera was off with the lens cap on so I missed the whole episode. 

I kept driving through the refuge and almost drove into a brood of pheasants foraging alongside the dirt road. Getting close was difficult but I started taking photos from inside my car so I wouldn't disturb them. As I inched forward they started to scatter and I made a note to save up for a better camera lens.

The sun was completely up by now but I still had some nice light for photos. I enjoyed the serenity of no traffic and the quiet prairie.

Benton Lake coyoteI was almost back to the paved road and caught some motion out of the corner of my eye. At first I thought it was a dog but soon realized it was a coyote in search of his morning meal. He stopped and looked at me for several minutes. I was in my car with the motor running and the passenger window down. Getting out of the car would have probably sent him running and I wanted a photo. He posed and I snapped away on my camera as the soft morning light glistened off of his thick winter coat. 

When I got home I counted my successes. I saw a nice sunrise, several pheasants and a coyote. Not bad for a morning drive that was only about an hour long. 

Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge is so close to Great Falls, so easily accessible, and so rewarding for wildlife watching.

Sometimes we take for granted what is right in our own back yard.

 

0 Comments


DEC

9

Fort Benton - More Charming Than Ever
Facebook. Twitter Google Pinterest Email


Charm braceletSeveral years ago the community of Fort Benton started a Charm Trail with individual businesses selling a charm that identified their building, what they sold, or a local attraction. It's a great way to encourage people to visit the different stores and businesses.

I have a Fort Benton charm bracelet with eight local charms - one in the shape of Montana with Fort Benton written on it, a canoe, a tepee, the Grand Union Hotel, a dog (forever faithful Shep), a cowboy boot, the original blockhouse at Old Fort Benton and a cowboy on a bucking horse.

Well, now I can collect Christmas (or 'winter") charms for a new bracelet!

Mittens, snowflakes, a reindeer, a Christmas stocking, an evergreen tree and more can all be purchased to personalize your new jewelry. 

I'm ready for another charm bracelet!

0 Comments


View Archives

View Mobile Site

Contact Central Montana at 1-800-527-5348

If you know the name of the business or event you are looking for click below:
1 - F   |   G - L   |   M - S   |   T - Z

Communities | Cultural & Historical | Historic Trails | Scenic Byways | Hunting & Fishing | Lewis & Clark
Dinosaurs | Calendar of Events | Area Map | Related Links | Order a Travel Planner | Home