Historical and Cultural Sites Along Hwy I-90 in Yellowstone Country
-Story and photos by Melynda Harrison
When you motor along Highway I-90 through Montana’s Yellowstone Country, you’re in for a memorable journey filled with diverse landscapes and fascinating history.
It’s easy to cruise through, but don't miss the opportunity to explore some of the cultural and historic gems just off the road. When you stop to refuel your vehicle, you can refuel your curiosity as well.
Here are five must-see sites my family visits again and again that will add depth and meaning to your road trip.
Missouri Headwaters State Park (Three Forks)
Begin your adventure at the source of one of America's greatest rivers—the Missouri. Located in Three Forks, Montana, the Missouri Headwaters State Park is a captivating natural site where the Gallatin, Madison and Jefferson rivers converge to form the mighty Missouri. This location holds historical significance as a pivotal decision point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805. You can explore the park's hiking trails, learn from the interpretive signs, enjoy a picnic and even try your hand at fishing in these pristine waters (with a Montana fishing license). https://fwp.mt.gov/missouri-headwaters
Extreme History Project Walking Tours (Bozeman)
Just a short drive from Three Forks, you'll find the vibrant town of Bozeman, Montana. Dive deep into Bozeman's rich history with the Extreme History Project Walking Tours. These guided tours offer a fascinating glimpse into the town's past, exploring topics such as early pioneers, Native American history and the area's transformation from a frontier town into a thriving city. It's an immersive experience that will transport you back in time. Check the schedule and buy tickets online. https://extremehistoryproject.org/the-extreme-history-project-walking-tours-schedule/
Sacajawea Statue and Corps of Discovery Signs (Livingston)
Continue your journey eastward to Livingston, Montana, where you'll encounter a tribute to one of America's most significant historical figures, Sacajawea. The Sacajawea statue (called “At The Yellowstone”) stands tall as a symbol of courage and perseverance. Actually, she’s sitting on a horse, holding her baby, Pompey. Cross the road for interpretive signs about the Corps of Discovery at the Yellowstone River. These signs provide valuable insights into the challenges and triumphs of the explorers. http://lewisandclarktrail.com/section3/montanacities/billings/yellowstone.htm
Fort Parker (Mission Creek)
History enthusiasts won't want to miss the opportunity to visit Fort Parker, the First Crow Agency, at the Mission Creek exit. Tipi poles represent the Crow lodging and interpretive signs explain how the area was used for ranching and more. Learn about the fur trade, early Montana settlement and the interactions between Native Americans and European settlers.
“Fort Parker represents the first stage of enforced governmental intrusion into the lives of the Crow People. Though the agency was established by treaty as a distribution point for government goods promised to the Crows in exchange for their government appropriated lands, it was also meant to transition these traditional buffalo hunters to a life of settled agriculture—a drastic change in lifestyle still felt on the Crow Reservation today.” https://fortparkerhistory.org/
Crazy Mountain Museum (Big Timber)
As you continue your journey along I-90, make a pit stop in Big Timber, Montana, and discover the history of the Crazy Mountains and the surrounding region at the Crazy Mountain Museum. This quaint museum is a treasure trove of artifacts, photographs and exhibits that showcase the area's Native American heritage, pioneer history, and the impact of the railroad on the region's development.
On the museum grounds, you’ll find a replica Norwegian stabbur, a tipi, a one room schoolhouse and a Fjare homestead cabin. The garden is home to plants that Clark named in his journal when he passed through the area as part of the Corps of Discovery in 1806. https://www.crazymountainmuseum.com/
A road trip along I-90 offers not only breathtaking scenery but also a chance to immerse yourself in the rich cultural and historical tapestry of the American West.
These five sites, from the headwaters of the Missouri River to the Crazy Mountain Museum, offer a unique glimpse into the past, making your road trip an unforgettable journey through time. It’s time to hit the open road and let history be your guide on this incredible adventure along I-90.