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Montana's Best Kept Secret

This fall weather has been outstanding, I wish it could last for months. But I know it won’t. Fall has always been a favourite time of year for me with the cooler weather and the beauty of the change in colours in the leaves. It's kind of like weekends when you were a kid. Sundays were always just as good as Saturdays, other than the fact that Monday was a school day. As in with fall, it’s a wonderful season, but you know that winter is like Monday is coming up next.


This always seemed to devalue Sunday, if you know what I mean. We talked the other week about getting ready for winter, an annual affair in the North country. Another annual affair for Denice and me is to take a short trip to Montana and what we feel is one of the best-kept secrets around - Fort Benton.


Last weekend we had the opportunity to visit Great Falls and an old friend of ours, The Charlie Russel museum, and take in all that it has to offer. If you are a fan of Western Art & the western lifestyle, then a visit to the Russel museum is a must. I never get tired of visiting it. On our way home, rather than taking the direct route up highway #15 to the Canadian border, we took the more scenic tour on the Highwood highway to Fort Benton. This route winds northeast of Great Falls through the beautiful rolling countryside and foothills of the Highwood mountain range, taking you to the Missouri River and the little town of Fort Benton. Fort Benton, at one time, was the head of western navigation on the Missouri river. All supplies from the east being shipped to the northwest, would come up the Missouri to Fort Benton, then be offloaded and put on oxe teams and freighted to their final destination in Montana or the North West Territories, which is now Alberta and Saskatchewan.


There are two or three museums in this little town which, in my opinion, the gem being the fort itself. That has been rebuilt close to its original grandeur. So if you are a student of the old west, which I am, it’s a must-see!


The main street itself is going through revitalization, with many of the old sandstone and brick buildings being brought back to their original glory. If you have time to stay and the totally renovated Grand Union Hotel, I would highly recommend it. It’s also a must!


Built in the 1880’s it’s been brought back to its original splendour as one of the most iconic hotels of the old west. It doesn’t get any better than sitting on the hotel's front lawn, enjoying your morning coffee and enjoying the mighty Missouri flow by. If I sound like a travel agent, I apologize. But I truly believe that Fort Benton has done a fantastic job of preserving its history and that of the old west. So, for us, this little trip down across the Medicine Line is a great little getaway before we need to get back to the ranch and continue getting ready for winter.


Happy trails!


- Keith J Stewart


Photo taken by Keith of the Missouri River

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