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Montana Dinosaur Trail and other Highlights on the Hi-Line

Updated on July 16, 2015

Road Trip on U.S. 2 in Northern Montana

2,500 miles separate Everett, Washington and Houlton, Maine via U.S. Highway 2. On this road trip, we'll start in Bainville in Eastern Montana and end at Glacier National Park on the eastern border of Montana on a section of U.S. 2. This stretch of road is nicknamed the Montana Hi-Line referring to the Great Northern Railroad that opened up trade along the Canadian border.

This northern section of Montana was originally settled by several native tribes. It wasn't until the early 1900's that European farmers and ranchers moved in following the 1909 Homestead Act. The Native Americans were resettled on four reservations: Blackfeet, Rocky Boy, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck.

The railroad brought in people with the promise of an agricultural nirvana. Towns were established and farms were planted, but drought cause many farms to fail. The Fort Peck Dam and Gibson Reservoir have kept some in the area, but life is not easy. Those who remain can be proud of the resilience and bask in the beauty of the land.

On this road trip, we'll pass through three Indian reservations, visit Fort Union Trading Post, Fort Peck Reservation, Fort Peck Lake and Fort Peck Dam. Then what you've been waiting for, the Montana Dinosaur Trail. This trail follows Hwy. 2 for quite a while and we will visit some of the museums along the way.

In Havre, check out the Beneath the Streets tour if you're brave enough to discover the unsavory side of the city. It's the Marias Museum of History and Art in Shelby, then on to the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Our last, but certainly not the least, stop is Glacier National Park. Nicknamed the "crown of the continent", you will be treated to alpine lakes, snow-topped mountain peaks and beautiful forests. Glacier is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, a Biosphere Reserve and the world's first International Peace Park. You won't be disappointed.

Are you ready to roll?

Fort Union Trading Post

From the town of Bainville, we’ll travel fifteen miles to the Fort Union Trading Post. Known as the "Grandest Fort on the Upper Missouri", it is here that seven Northern Plains Indian Tribes traded buffalo robes and furs for goods such as guns, blankets, cloth and beads.

Established in 1828 by the American Fur Company, it was not a military post, but a business for trade. It lasted until 1867. Today, you can take a look at the past of the post at the museum located in the Bourgeois House. Also check out:

  • Reconstructed fort

  • Reconstructed trade house where they offer living history programs in the summer. Inside, find exhibits including buffalo robes, firearms, and videos.

  • Junior Trader program for kids

  • Bodmer Overlook hiking trail

Location:

Bourgeois House Visitor Center

15550 Hwy 1804

Williston, ND 58801

701-572-9083

Fort Peck Dam

To solve some of the issues with drought to the local farmers, the Fort Peck Dam was constructed beginning in 1934. It took many years to complete due to complications. Head to the Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center and Museum next to the powerhouse to learn the story. In the summer, tours are offered on the hour. You will learn about the history of the dam as well as about dinosaur species, fish, plants and animals in the area.

Today, the Fort Peck Dam is one of six dams on the upper Missouri River. As well as irrigation, the dam provides flood control, hydroelectric power, fish and wildlife conservation, recreation and public water.

Location:

Lower Yellowstone Road

Fort Peck, MT 59223

406-526-3493

Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge

Beginning at the Fort Peck Dam and continuing 125 miles into north-central Montana is the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Inside the refuge, you will find prairies, forests, rivers, the Fort Peck Reservoir and the badlands. The refuge is named after artist Charles M. Russell who often included the badlands in his work.

Native American Indian tribes originally populated the area. It was discovered by Europeans on the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805. Today, the area is open to hiking and horseback riding, although there are no formal trails. You may see elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, sage and sharp-trailed grouse, or bald eagles.

Location:

Fort Peck Wildlife Station

30 Dearborn Road

Fort Peck, MT 59223

406-526-3464

Artwork of Charles M Russell - Plus Traditional Blackfeet Indian Dancing

Fort Peck Interpretive Center

Just outside Fort Peck, one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeletons was found. You can learn about it and other dinosaur finds in the area at the Fort Peck Interpretive Center. The lobby of the center displays a replica of Peck's RexTM.

Other exhibits include the Cretaceous Sea, wildlife on the Charles M. Russell Refuge, and the history of Fort Peck Dam. In the summer, the center offers educational programs, nature walks and hands-on activities.

Location:

Lower Yellowstone Road

Fort Peck, MT 59223

406-526-3493

Fort Peck Reservoir

At 134 miles long, the Fort Peck Reservoir is the largest body of water in Montana. It is located inside the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. The reservoir was created by constructing the Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River.

The only paved road is located near the west side of the dam. There are other access roads, but they are all dirt or gravel. Fort Peck Reservoir is a popular place for outdoors enthusiasts including:

  • Boating

  • Hiking

  • Fishing

  • Picnicking

  • Camping

  • Swimming

Location:

Fort Peck, MT 59223

406-526-3411

Pioneer Museum of Valley County

Visit the Pioneer Museum of Valley County and learn about the early life and history of northeast Montana including:

  • Major dinosaur finds along the Dinosaur Trail

  • Assiniboine tribe collection of artifacts

  • The railroad and how it affected the area

  • Military history of the Cold War including a plane

  • Lewis and Clark

  • Farm machinery of the time

  • Stan Kalinski Wildlife Collection including artifacts, saddles, horns, antlers and more

Location:

616 Highway 2

Glasgoe, MT 59230

406-228-8692

Phillips County Museum

In the town of Malta, don't miss the Phillips County Museum. Inside you'll find the history of the Indians, pioneers, dinosaurs, cowboys and outlaws who lived in this area.

  • In the Indian exhibit, enjoy the McLellan and Sullivan collection of Indian art

  • In the Pioneer exhibit check out the tools, toys, clothing and furniture of the early pioneers as well as a replica of a one-room schoolhouse, church and mercantile.

  • In the cowboy exhibit take in the replica of a bunkhouse and learn of their lives.

  • Kid Curry is the celebrity in the Outlaw section. He started his history here in 1894. Find artifacts of his life and that of his gang, the Wild Bunch

  • Next door is the H.G. Robinson House with garden. This is a mail-order home shipped out on the railroad.

  • Finally, the Dinosaur exhibit includes discoveries from the Judith River area some 77 million years ago. Special features are "Elvis", the Brachylophosaurus and a cousin of the T-Rex; the Albertosaurs.

Location:

431 US Highway 2E

Malta, MU 59538

406-654-1037

Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station

Originally a field station where fossils of the area were cleaned and studied, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum was opened in 2008. You will find dinosaurs fossils here including the Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Sauropod, Raptor and Hadrosaurs. You will also find fossils of smaller creatures such as fish, squids, lobsters, crabs and plants.

If you’ve ever considered going into the field, you can try it out here. Join paleontologist Dave Trexler for an authentic experience digging for fossils. They also have a Junior Paleontologist program for kids ages 5 and up. They will learn about fossil discovery, excavation, preparation, research and display.

Location:

405 First Street NE

Malta, MT 59338

406-654-5300406-654-5300

Dinosaur Dig - Watch this video if you've ever wondered what it's like to be an archaeologist.

Havre, Montana

In you’re visiting the area:

Havre Montana

406-265-4383

H. Earl Clack Museum

If you are looking for a great explanation of the Hi-Line, visit the H. Earl Clack Museum. Inside, you’ll learn about the prehistoric inhabitants of the area along what is now named the Dinosaur Trail, through the Indians, and then first settlers and the development of the town of Havre.

Exhibits include findings in the nearby Wahpka Chung’m bison kill site, artifacts, displays as well as dinosaur eggs and embryos and the newest: a rare skull of a stygimoloch dinosaur.

Location:

Holiday Village Shopping Center

1753 U.S. Highway 2

Havre, MT 59501

406-265-4000

Buffalo Jump

Just outside Havre, Montana, you can step back in time and witness up close and personal the most extensive American hunting ground buffalo bone deposit in the northern Great Plains. You will not find bones in glass cases; you will see the actual bones of an ancient Buffalo Jump.

The Native Americans drove buffalo down paths towards a cliff. They got the buffalo going at a steady pace so that when they reached the cliff, they kept going and fell to their deaths. Thus the "buffalo jump".

Named Wahkpa Chu'gn, this site was first discovered in 1962. Archeologists spent the next thirty years uncovering massive caches of buffalo bones, arrowheads and other artifacts. Since 1992, the site has been preserved, leaving the research out in the open for you to view. Tours are given by appointment anytime. Get ready to be amazed.

Location:

Behind the Holiday Village Shopping Center

1753 U.S. Highway 2

Havre, MT 59501

406-265-6417 for appointments.

Take a Walk at Buffalo State Park

Beneath the Streets Tour

Step back in time 100 years into the Sporting Eagle Saloon. In this honky-tonk, watch the cowboys gamble and swill rot-gut. Take in the Havre Beneath the Streets Tour and you will see the saloon as well as other businesses of the past.

In 1904, a fire swept down the streets of Havre and destroyed most of the businesses. While waiting for their buildings to be re-built, these business owners set up shop in the basements. Thus, the “Beneath” the streets tour. Along with the saloon, you’ll visit an opium den, a Chinese laundry, bakery, a bordello and more. Head on down and get a glimpse of history.

Location:

Ticket office:

120 Third Avenue

Havre, MT 59501

406-265-8888406-265-8888

Railroad Museum

The site of Havre began as a railroad siding. Soon settlers from Fort Assinniboine and homesteaders moved into the area and a town was born. It is only fitting, then, that there be a Railroad Museum.

Frank DeRosa was born and raised in Havre. He began working for the Great Northern Railway Co. in 1941 and continued there until 1984. He was very active in the community and was instrumental in starting the Beneath the Streets tours. Among his hobbies, he was a train enthusiast. His memorabilia is on display at the museum

You will also find:

  • History of the railroad

  • Relay office recreation

  • Working block signal

  • Original hand push carts

  • Complete model railroad making it' daily run

  • Gift shop and reference library

Location:

120 Third Avenue

Havre, MT 59501

Fort Assinniboine

Montana's grandest military post

One of the largest military forts in the U.S., Fort Assinniboine once had 100 buildings and housed nearly 750. It was established in 1879 following Custer's defeat at the Little Bighorn. It was considered the most important military post in the Northwest because of its location. Halfway between the Missouri River and Saskatchewan Canada, the troops watched out for Indian activity, patrolled the border, stopped bootleggers and protected the state. But when the railroad came in, the fort became obsolete.

Today you can take a guided tour during the summer months.

Tour pickup location:

Behind the Holiday Village Shopping Center

1753 U.S. Highway 2

Havre, MT 59501

406-265-4000

Bear Paw Battlefield

In July, 1877, the Nez Perce fled the US Army in Idaho. The went to Montana, then through Yellowstone Park and finally towards Canada. After travelling 1,300 miles with over 800 people, they believed they had outrun the Army. Instead, they were attacked and trapped in a valley. After five days of battle, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce surrendered, issuing his famous quote, "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." This final location is referred today as the Bear Paw Battlefield. It is considered the best preserved military historical site in North America.

Daily tours are offered from the Blaine County Museum in Chinook.

501 Indiana Street

Chinook, MT 59523

406-357-2590

Or you can take the self-guided tour at the site:

16 miles south of Chinook on Route 240.

Marias Museum of History and Art

Learn all about Toole County at the Marias Museum of History and Art in Shelby, Montana. Ten rooms are filled with thousands of artifact commemorating the history of Toole County including:

  • Indian artifacts

  • Dinosaur bones and fossils

  • Toys

  • Military artifacts

  • Musical instruments

  • Railroad history

  • School room with period furnishings

  • Businesses including: Doctor, Dentist, Barber Shop, Blacksmith

  • And more!

Location:

206 12th Avenue North

Shelby, MT 59474

406-424-2551

Museum of the Plains Indian

The Museum of the Plains Indian was founded in 1941 to celebrate the arts of the tribal peoples of the Northern Plains including:

  • Blackfeet

  • Crow

  • Northern Cheyenne

  • Sioux

  • Assiniboine

  • Arapaho

  • Shoshone

  • Nez Perce

  • Flathead

  • Chippewa

  • Cree

On life size figures, witness the costumes of the Northern Plains people as well as displays of weapons, baby carriers, toys, and ceremonial art forms.

Location:

Junction of U.S. Highways 2 and 89 West

Browning, Montana

(406) 338-2230

Glacier National Park

If you’re visiting the area:

National Park System/ Glacier National Park

406-888-7800

Glacier National Park

Crown of the Continent

If you are a nature lover and enjoy miles of hiking trails, magnificent views of rugged mountains, lakes and meadows, Glacier National Park is for you. The park was established in 1910 followed by the construction of many hotels and chalets, many of which are listed today as National Historic Landmarks. In 1932, the Going to the Sun Road was completed offering easier access to some of the hidden treasures in the park.

Today millions of visitors come each year to the park. With all it has to offer, everyone should be able to find something of interest. Here are some of the features:

Going to the Sun Road

Designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, the Going to the Sun Road spans fifty miles deep into the heart of the park. It connects the east and west entrances passing through winding mountainsides, wildlife viewing and spectacular sights. Where did the name come from? Blackfeet legend tells that Sour Spirit came down from the sun to teach Blackfeet braves how to hunt, then would return to the sun.

Take a Ride on the Going-to-the-Sun Road

More Glacier National Park

Historic Walking Tour

The Glacier National Park Headquarters is home to office buildings, trade shops and employee residences. The buildings come in a variety of architectural styles including:

  • Craftsman style of 1917

  • Rustic of 1920

  • Mission of 1950-60

You can take a one-hour guided tour of the buildings to learn of these structures.

Apgar Village

Located at the west entrance to the park, Apgar Village offers:

  • Lodging including a Motel, Lodge and camping

  • Visitor Center offering information about the park and a bookstore

  • Gift Shop and Camp store

  • Backcountry Office for permits and information

  • Restaurant

  • Access to hiking

  • Access to the Going to the Sun Road

Activities in the area include:

  • Boat Rentals on Lake McDonald

  • Horseback Rides

  • Road tours

  • Discovery Cabin offering interactive displays on the park’s plants, animals and history

Logan Pass

At 6,646 feet, Logan Pass is on the Continental Divide. At the highest accessible location in Glacier National Park, head to the Visitor Center for information on the area wildlife, plants and other features of alpine meadows. You might see Bighorn sheep, mountain goat or bear. Rangers are on hand in the summer to answer your questions. This is a popular location for sightseeing and hiking. Four trails leave from Logan Pass.

St. Mary Visitor Center

At the east side of Glacier National Park, St. Mary Visitor Center is perhaps the busiest. Inside the visitor center, you can enjoy a movie about the park, or check out educational and interpretive exhibits or the bookstore. Be sure to look for the huge relief map of the park.

Activities at the visitor center include:

  • Evening Programs about Glacier National Park with a Ranger

  • Road Tours

  • Native America Speaks Program with traditional Blackfeet drumming and dancing

Lake McDonald Valley

At the west side of Glacier National Park, you’ll find Lake McDonald Valley, once filled with giant glaciers. In this valley you’ll find Lake McDonald, the largest lake in the park. At nearly 500 feet deep and ten miles long, the lake is surrounded by mountains on three sides. This creates a very damp climate as precipitation falls here before rising over the mountains. Surrounding the lake, look for:

  • Apgar Visitor center

  • Four campgrounds

  • Ranger led activities

  • Day hiking and backpacking

  • Restaurants

  • Gift stores and a camp store

  • Boat and road tours

  • Horseback Rides

  • Shuttle service

  • Lake McDonald Lodge, built in 1913 to resemble a rustic hunting lodge

North Fork

If you’re looking for unspoiled beauty and few people, head to the North Fork area. There is no shuttle service here and many roads are dirt. But if you do make the effort, you will be rewarded by stunning views and wildlife. You will get the idea of the early settlers as they made their way into the area, away from modern comforts.

Several forest fires over a twenty-year period has resulted in forests with plants of different ages. This diverse habitat provides shelter for animals you will not see in other parts of the park. There are four campgrounds in this area of the park.

Goat Haunt

Goat Haunt is even more remote than North Fork. To get there, you have to hike in or take a boat. It is here where you will see a straight line of trees marking the International Boundary. Across the line is Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Although independently managed, in 1932, the United States and Canada declared the parks be joined to commemorate the peace between the two countries. It was declared: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Be sure to bring your ID if you wish to explore the whole park. There are no facilities in this area of the park.

Two Medicine

Before the Going to the Sun Road was built, the only way into the back country of the park was via Two Medicine. Here you could stay in rustic chalets or canvas tipis and then take a guided tour into Glacier’s wild interior.

Today Two Medicine is the off-the-beaten-path secret of Glacier, offering:

  • Camping

  • Ranger-led activities

  • Hiking and backpacking

  • Camp store and gift shop

  • Boat tours and rentals

  • Road tours

Many Glacier

If you’re looking for the ‘real’ Glacier National Park, head to Many Glacier where you can witness active glaciers, gorgeous lakes, hiking and wildlife. Here you can get an up-close-and-personal look at glaciers and how they affect the landscape. While there, take adavantage of:

  • Camping

  • Ranger-led activities

  • Hiking and backpacking

  • Lodge

  • Boat and road tours

  • Camp and gift stores

Have You Been on the Hi-Line?

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