Records of people living in this part of the continent date back more than 12,000 years. That rich history is still alive at the lush Missouri Headwaters. You can find prehistoric pictographs, views strikingly similar to what native tribes would have enjoyed, and modern-day fun.
As the years wound on, Lewis & Clark arrived in 1805, scouting their way to find a Northwest Passage, a waterway to connect the east coast and the west. They arrived at this spot, the same place where their guide Sacajawea had been kidnapped as a young girl. Here, they had to choose a fork of the river to paddle down and carry along on their journey.
After the expedition passed by in the early 19th century, settlers began to make their way westward, making homesteads and farms in the fertile Gallatin Valley. You can still see the mark they left on the land when you take a look at the historic buildings left standing in the park.
The two miles of hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails are perfect for an evening stroll or a morning leg stretch. You’ll find shared use with hikers, bikers, and horses, with plenty of scenic overlooks and interpretive opportunities. Just remember that dogs need to be on a leash at all times in the park.
To see the headwaters itself, loop down to the water’s edge and read about the journey The Missouri takes to make it to St Louis, where it joins the Mississippi and then continues on into the Gulf of Mexico. You can then take a short 1.5-mile loop around the apex of Fort Rock to get views out into the valley before you swing around to Pictograph Cave and the Kessler Pioneer Grave.
The park office near the campground is a quick stop if you have questions about the park or need help orienting yourself. Then you can find vault toilets at the main parking areas. Expect limited services, but great scenery.
The Missouri River is the longest tributary of the Mississippi, and it holds the honor of being the second-longest river in North America. The total course runs 2,315 miles from the Headwaters to St Louis, carrying enormous volumes of water with it to the sea.
Three Forks comes by its name honestly, as the spot where the three forks (the Jefferson, the Madison, and the Gallatin) flow together to form The Missouri. At the Headwaters, you can get in on the action with fishing access sites and a boat launch that set you afloat on the mighty waters.
On summer Saturday evenings at 7pm, bring a chair down to the picnic area at the Headwaters for their summer speaker series. You never know what you may learn about the historical and natural side of this area.
There’s plenty to explore in the Headwaters region when you spend some time unwinding at the Sacajawea! Get more day trip ideas here. When you book your Montana getaway, you find historically rich areas that allow you to see the wildness and rugged nature of the West without having to let wild and rugged define your accomodations. Join us a the Sacajawea for that touch of elegance, amidst the historical charm and fine dining you can find here. Click here to find out more.
If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at some of our other related articles:
- Sacajawea: Better than a Bed and Breakfast
- Sacajawea Hotel History
- Why a Sacajawea Cottage Makes for a Perfect Weekend Retreat