Description - Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the area to become known as the state of Montana. The Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-1806 was the first group of white explorers to cross Montana. Hard on the heels of the expedition arrived the fur trappers and traders. Trappers brought alcohol, disease and a new economic system to native populations. Roman Catholic missionaries followed the trappers into Montana. They established Saint Mary's Mission in the Bitterroot Valley, thought to be the first permanent settlement in Montana. The discovery of gold brought many prospectors into the area in the 1860's, and Montana became a territory in 1864. Cattle ranches began flourishing in western valleys during the 1860's as demand for beef in the new mining communities increased.
- The most important of the many historic sites in Montana are described in this section, primarily those preserved and managed by federal and state agencies.
Recreation - The historic sites offer viewing of buildings and sites of historic significance to Montana. Some offer interpretive tours and educational opportunities.
Climate - The climate in Montana varies with the terrain. The western region of the state receives storm systems from the Pacific Ocean, which tend to be temperate. Because of its mountainous topography the region receives significant snowfall amounts, with winter temperatures usually below freezing.
Summer in this region is mild with high temperatures reaching 85 degrees F. Nights are cool in the mountains during the summer. Bring warm layers, hats and gloves if camping. High country roads usually do not open until mid to late June, due to snow accumulation. Thunderstorms are a daily occurrence in June, July and August, so be prepared for rain in the mountains.
Maps and driving instructions to each historic Montana site are available on the individual wildernet page for each one.