Liberty County covers approximately 1,450 square miles and has a population nearing 2,400. Chester, the county seat, is located on US Hwy 2 fifty miles south of the US/Canada border. Other communities in the county include Joplin and Whitlash.
The roots of agriculture run deep here and can be traced back to homesteaders seeking a better life in the early 1900s. The area is largely a rolling plain and is part of Montana’s Golden Triangle, a fertile wheat producing area. The major water source is the Marias River which was dammed in the mid 1950s to create Tiber Dam and ultimately Lake Elwell. The reservoir is over 17,000 acres with 5 boat ramps and several campgrounds and is just 15 minutes south of Chester. The dam aids in flood control and the reservoir provides water for Chester’s municipal water system.
Recreation in the area is varied including hunting, fishing (walleye, pike perch, lake and rainbow trout), camping, hiking and boating. Birdwatching at Sanford Park on the Marias River/Lake Elwell is exceptional.
The iconic Sweetgrass Hills are viewable looking north of Chester. East Butte, Gold Butte (named for previous gold mining) and West Butte form the “hills” which are actually volcanic mountains. Tipi rings, multi-room caves and buffalo jumps have been found in the Sweetgrass Hills. At 7,000 feet, the Sweetgrass Hills are the highest isolated peaks in the United States.
Visitors to the county will find displays interpreting the homestead era at the Liberty County Museum. The Liberty Village Arts Center & Gallery have both performing and graphic art shows and workshops and a gift shop featuring local artists.
The county’s ties to the Lewis & Clark expedition include Captain Lewis’ exploration of the Marias River to determine if it was the main waterway through the area as they traveled west. Exploration of the Marias swayed the Corps to take the Missouri River. On the return trip, Captain Lewis and a small detachment explored the Blackfoot, Sun and Marias Rivers and were involved in a skirmish with the Blackfeet Indians east of Liberty County.