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Chouteau County Montana

Chouteau County was named for Auguste and Pierre Chouteau, early day fur traders who established the original trading post at Old Fort Benton. The area is filled with rolling plains and scenic backdrops formed by the Bear Paw Mountains and Highwood Mountains. The Highwood Mountains offer several hiking and mountain biking trails of varying levels. Maps are available at the Helena/Lewis & Clark National Forest Service office in Great Falls. Geraldine and Square Butte are noted geological areas where you can still see laccoliths jutting from the ground. The Missouri River, commonly referred to as the Upper Missouri, cuts through the county along with the Marias and Teton rivers. The county population is nearly 6,000.

Fort Benton is the county seat of Chouteau County and at one time was the world’s most inland port when steamboats chugged upriver. As the fur trade era boomed, so did Fort Benton. Dubbed the Birthplace of Montana, the town was also the terminus of the Whoop Up Trail and Mullan Road. The Lewis & Clark Expedition traveled upstream on the Missouri River past what would become the site of Fort Benton. Today, the reconstructed fort is one of several on the international Old Forts Trail and daily guided tours of the fort give visitors a glimpse into that era. The Starr Gallery of Western Art is also housed in the fort.

As you walk the historic river levee in Fort Benton be sure to learn about Shep, a famous dog known for his unwavering loyalty to his master. Interpretive signs noting Fort Benton’s history are located all along the levee.

The Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument straddles the Missouri River as it flows through Chouteau County and the Wild and Scenic designation on the Missouri begins at Fort Benton and covers 149 miles downstream. Water recreation on this historic stretch of the Missouri River boosts the area’s economy along with farming and ranching. Two historic river ferries operate seasonally carrying vehicles across the Missouri River at Carter and Virgelle.

Chouteau County Montana Map




  • Summer Celebration – Fort Benton
  • Chouteau County Fair – Fort Benton
  • Chouteau County Country Christmas – Fort Benton
  • Bridgeport Station Arts & Craft Show – Fort Benton
  • Real Country Christmas at a Real Country Store – Virgelle