Judith Basin county is surrounded by several mountain ranges creating an actual drainage basin. The Little Belt Mountains, Highwood Mountains, Judith Mountains and Snowy Mountains form a rim around the area. There are 1,871 square miles of land in the county and 1 square mile of water.
Stanford, the county seat, is located just off US Hwy 87 between Great Falls and Lewistown. The Lewis & Clark National Forest in both the northern and southern areas of the county offers a variety of recreation. Maps and information are available at the Judith District office of the Lewis & Clark National Forest located in Stanford. There are many forest service campgrounds and the area offers unlimited hiking, mountain biking, fishing and big game hunting. The historic Judith Guard Station near Utica is available for overnight use.
Judith Basin county was founded on agriculture (sheep and cattle ranching) and that remains the primary economic driver today. Bluebird trails and wildlife viewing are popular through this tranquil ranching country. The Judith River Wildlife Management Area south of Utica covers 9,408 acres and offers prime habitat for wintering elk and other game.
The county even has ties to the Lewis & Clark expedition when Captain William Clark named the Judith River for his sweetheart Julia.
Throughout the county visitors can experience the time when cowboy artist Charlie Russell lived in the area. The C. M. Russell Auto Tour route follows US Hwy 87 with a loop through Utica and points beyond. Travelers can see many scenic backdrops used in Russell’s artwork, still relatively unchanged today. The arts are still prominent today with a local sculptor’s studio and foundry adjacent to the Prairie Past Museum in Stanford, an artist co-op on Main Street and a variety of artists working in home-based studios throughout the county.
A gemstone known as the Yogo Sapphire was found in Yogo Gulch southwest of Utica and the six mile sapphire bar still is mined. The cornflower blue-colored sapphire is unique in that is doesn’t need to be heat treated to produce color.
Anglers will find both still water (Ackley Lake State Park) and moving water in the Judith River, Lost Fork, Dry Fork, Yogo Creek and the Middle and South Forks of the Judith River. Ackley Lake also has camping and boating. Anglers willing to hike will find some hidden streams and lakes in the mountains worth the climb.
As fall approaches the county becomes a hunter’s mecca. Area habitat supports elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, bear, moose and mountain lions.
Unique events in the county include the Montana Bale Trail: What The Hay on the route between Hobson, Utica and Windham the first Sunday after Labor Day and Scarecrows in the Garden in Stanford in October. Stanford also hosts the C.M Russell Stampede Rodeo in July.