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Tucked away in a valley on the Missouri River and surrounded by high bluffs, Fort Benton has served as the perfect gateway to Montana adventure for nearly two hundred years. Fur traders established a fort at the site a generation before the Montana gold rushes of the 1860s making Fort Benton the oldest town in Montana. Fort Benton was the last inland port on the Missouri and the beginning of the Mullan Trail that ends in Walla Walla, WA. As a result, nearly every person exploring the Northwest, including Lewis and Clark, passed through the area.
Today, Fort Benton continues to serve as a gateway to adventure. The town sits at the west end of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. These 375,000 acres of public land feature a spectacular array hiking, backpacking, floating, fishing, wildlife viewing and photo opportunities. Although a few highways pass through or near the national monument, it is best accessed along 149 miles of the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River. This virtually untouched stretch of river passes through the Missouri River Breaks, an area described by Lewis and Clark as "scenes of visionary enchantment."
Outfitters, unique boutiques and delicious eateries line Fort Benton's Front Street. Be sure to plan your trip around the annual Summer Celebration. This festival features three full days jam packed with art fairs, craft markets, live music, historical re-enactments on what was once known as the bloodiest block in the west, street dances, parades, barbeques and more. Plan to spend a several days in Fort Benton exploring one of the most complete surveys of Northern Great Plains history in existence. The Fort Benton Heritage Complex includes: Old Fort Benton, The Museum of the Upper Missouri, The State of Montana's Museum of the Northern Great Plains, Homestead Village, The Hornaday Smithsonian Buffalo Gallery, The Upper Missouri River Breaks Interpretive Center, The Overholser Research Center, The Schwinden Library, and The Montana Agricultural Center. In addition, Old Fort Benton is the southern end of the Old Forts Trail (www.fortbenton.com/forts/index.htm), a tour of seven forts in Central Montana and Canada.
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