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From Ghost Towns To Heritage Centers, Montana’s Attractions Celebrate History And Culture
History in Montana is not something closeted away in corners – in many cases its hidden in plain sight and a part of everyday life in the Treasure State.
Early humans lived in the mountains here and hunted on the plains. Near Havre, the Wahkpa Chugn Archaeological Site is operated by the H. Earl Clark Memorial Museum and protects a 2,000 year old Native American bison jump site. Here, people channeled charging buffalo using existing trees and hand-held shrubbery toward a cliff. Hunters were waiting at the bottom of the cliff to club the still-living bison to death. The meat, bones, and sinew were all harvested, consumed, and even traded.
In far southwest Montana, the Big Hole National Battlefield preserves a Nez Perce War site where the tribe fought an American infantry regiment. This little-known park in a broad valley has trails and a visitor center explaining how U.S. forces staged a pre-dawn attack on 800 native men, women, and children camped here. A group of Nez Perce later escaped and fled toward Canada.
On the high plains in Sidney, the MonDak Heritage Center houses an extensive research library, archives, preserved historic records and photographs chronicling the early days of settlement in eastern Montana. The center hosts cultural, musical, and humanities programs and displays youth art, quilts and needlework, and paintings by famed Western artist J. K. Ralston.
At the edge of Yellowstone National Park, the Livingston Depot is a restored 1902 Northern Pacific Railroad station which signifies the fortunes of this corner of the state. The building houses a popular museum and cultural center which has exhibits on the area’s history and culture, and throughout the year hosts parties, festivals, receptions, forums, and concerts.
Southeastern Montana is home to a significant event in American history – the site of the Little Bighorn Battle. This area, now a national monument, was where George Custer’s cavalry fought a combined Lakota-Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho force. Today, you can gaze at Last Stand Hill and see marble memorials to those who died defending the Cheyenne and Arapaho way or life.
In the early days of Montana, settlers were sometimes supported by military encampments. One of the best known is preserved today in Havre as Fort Assiniboine. This facility was built to defend the area against Native American tribes which had retreated into Canada. A notable military officer stationed here was John Pershing.
Located astride the Montana-North Dakota border, the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site preserves what was once the most important fur trading post on the upper Missouri River. Cree, Blackfoot, Hidatsa, Lakota, and other tribe members brought robes and furs to trade for beads, guns, blankets, knives, cloth, and alcohol. Today the partially reconstructed fort is open to visitors.
Montana’s mineral wealth made many people rich, and the most famous of them may have been Marcus Daly. Daly found his wealth by owning copper mines in the town of Anaconda, but later he called Hamilton home, and today you can tour the Marcus Daly mansion, called Riverside. This Georgian-Revival style home has expansive grounds perfect for strolling and picnicking as well as exhibits covering the story of Daly and his rise from being a working-class immigrant to one of the West’s richest men.
Montana’s mountains produced fabulous wealth, but many of the towns which sprouted to service mines faded as soon as the mines ran dry. Few of these ghost town are as scenic easy to access as Elkhorn. Crammed into a narrow valley in the Elkhorn Mountains between Butte and Helena, this ghost town has excellent examples of mining-era architecture. The center of town has several gorgeous commercial properties, while by poking around in the slopes to the north you can find more abandoned structures in various stages of being reclaimed by the forest.
Spend quality family time together during your visit to Billings. Grab your camera to capture memories of a day of fun, at ZooMontana.
This 70-acre zoological park and botanical garden, is home to a wonderful variety of exotic and native animal and plant species, from the northern Rockies, as well as northern latitudes of Asia and Europe. Enjoy your time at the sole zoological park in the Treasure State of Montana.
Take your time strolling the zoo grounds to view the animal exhibits featuring the Amur Tiger, Grizzly Bear, Red Panda, Northern Mainland Sika Deer, Wolf, North American River Otter, Bald Eagle and waterfowl.
The Living Wall is home to the Chilean Rose Hair Tarantula, the Three Toed Box Turtle, the Tiger Salamander and a variety of snakes. View the Screech Owl, the Chinchilla, and the American Mink at the zoo's Discovery Center.
Travelers in the Treasure State of Montana, ready to learn more about the state's history, make their way to capitol city of Helena. Visit the Greek neoclassical style Montana State Capitol Building, in downtown Helena, to start your educational journey of the state.
The Montana House of Representatives and the Montana Senate conduct business from their chambers inside this beautiful building. The construction of the Capitol, made of granite and Montana sandstone, started in 1896 and took six years to complete.
Eastern and western wings were added to the building between 1909 and 1912. The top of the Capital Building features a copper covered dome with a "Lady Liberty" statue on top.
Enjoy a guided tour of the building to see the impressive rotunda, surrounded by four original round paintings, as well as the 1912 "Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians at Ross' Hole" painting. Be sure to tour the Hall of Governors, as well as the Governor's Reception Room.
Operated by the Gibson Guitar Corporation, the Gibson Montana Acoustic Guitar facility is located in Bozeman – set in southern Montana.
Gibson Montana features factory tours, showcasing the production of a Gibson acoustic guitar. Guided tours lead attendees from “resaw” to "finished goods” within the Gibson Montana Acoustic Guitar factory.