I recently had an opportunity to visit Fort Benton and to tour the reconstructed fort. I’ve been there quite a few times but each time I go more work has been done to re-create life as it was when this fort was a bustling trading post.
Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, I’ve heard docents refer to this fort as the Walmart of the 1800’s. It’s a great way to explain things to visitors though.
It was chilly outside and there was a fire in the fireplace. We relaxed and warmed ourselves for awhile, and absorbed some history of the area. Then we toured the rest of the main building.
If we had been on time, oh dear, a constant problem of mine (!), we would have seen the exterior of the complex in the daytime. Yes, it was completely dark by time we arrived but I managed to find the gate.
Fort Benton is dubbed the “Birthplace of Montana”. Early day steamboats traveled up the Missouri River and this was as far as they could travel. All of their freight was unloaded in Fort Benton, goods were sold and purchased by trappers, and life on terra firma brought weary river passengers back to life. I’d venture to guess that the Birthplace of Montana was one hopping place at that time!
Docent-led tours of the reconstructed Fort are given during the summer. Fort Benton proudly struts it’s history on the levee that leads to the fort. Interpretive panels are located along the levee and a paved walking trail parallels the river.
We were late for our next stop, go figure, but we took our time and soaked up the history that is so well-displayed and interpreted at the fort.