We left Great Falls this morning and drove first to Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Past blogs will give you a glimpse into my birdwatching skills and I wanted to show this gem off to my friends. After a stop at Benton Lake’s new visitor center we took one of the auto tour routes. We saw a lot of birds, I couldn’t name hardly any of them. Our visit was still a treat but…I should have brought the bird book along!
Our next stop was Fort Benton, Montana located right on the banks of the Missouri River about 40 minutes northeast of Great Falls. We visited every historic site and museum in town, and that’s no small feat! This town embraces their history and makes it very easy for visitors to experience it.
Our first stop was the Montana Agricultural Museum. Take a look at this photo of the 5 Millionth Tractor produced. You can also follow agriculture from homesteading days to almost present day methods.This museum complex is huge so be sure to allow plenty of time to wander and enjoy exhibits, both inside and out.
Another amazing display in the Ag Museum is the Hornaday Buffalo Collection. These Plains buffalo were at one time displayed at the Smithsonian, then stored and forgotten about.
You’ll learn about Hornaday, an early day conservationist, and his attempt to educate the American public about the fate of the buffalo as they were hunted for buffalo robes.
We visited the reconstructed Old Fort Benton and were entertained with tales from on-site historian Bruce “Burnt Spoon” Druliner. Needless to say, history came to life for us that day!
The Bureau of Land Management has a fairly new river contact station with some nice displays about river history…think steamboats. Fort Benton was the farthest most steamboats could travel up the Missouri River so the town became a rip-roarin’ trading center. One interpretive panel on the river levee talks about the area being the Bloodiest Block in the West. It’s amazing what lots of trade goods, probably some trade liquids, and a few differing opinions could cause.
As you stroll the beautiful river levee, be sure to read about Shep, a faithful sheepdog. You’ll see a statue erected in his honor and learn a very touching story about man’s best friend. On this melancholy note, I’ll end today’s blog!