The River

The Big Blackfoot is classic Montana water. Clear, cold, and unimpeded by dams for its entire 132 mile length, the river winds through three canyons, past red rock cliffs and mountains, and alongside wildflower-laden meadows and prairies.

The Blackfoot valley forms the southern boundary of the Crown of The Continent, a fully intact ecosystem still containing every species of fauna that was here before the first European explorers arrived on the scene -- one of only twelve such ecosystems left on earth.

Wildlife rare to other regions abounds here. Grizzlies, elk, bighorn sheep, cougar, lynx, wolf and deer all call its valley home. Bald and golden eagles regularly patrol the air space above.

The area is rich in history, both ancient and recent. The great Glacial Lake Missoula floods of 12,000 years ago helped carve the many red rock cliffs found in the area as well as the rolling boulder-strewn native grassland valley floor.  For many centuries, the valley was traversed by the Kokalahishkit trail, heavily used by many western tribes to reach the vast buffalo herds to the east. Traces of the Indians' travois tracks can still be found in the area.

Two centuries ago, Meriwether Lewis followed this trail as his "Voyage of Discovery" -- the Lewis and Clark Expedition -- made its return trip to St. Louis. Starting on July 4, 1806, Lewis and his band spent four days in the valley, camping on its banks, hunting in its meadows.  The vista onto which they gazed during that time has changed little in the intervening two centuries.  Meriwether was sufficiently impressed to sketch the rock pictured here into his journal while resting at the mouth of the Clearwater River, a major Big Blackfoot tributary.
It was another twenty years before the next European saw the river when the legendary mountain man Jim Bridger spent the summer of 1826 in the Blackfoot valley, trapping beaver while somehow avoiding the loss of his topknot to the equally legendary and fierce Blackfeet Indians.
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