The Montana State Parks Foundation is publishing a weekly showcase of Montana State Parks' 55 properties.
This week's featured state park is Council Grove, located in Missoula, which marks the site of the 1855 council between the superintendent of Indian Affairs and territorial governor of Washington, Isaac Stevens, and members of the Flathead, Kootenai, and Pend d'Oreille nations.
Like many formal interactions between tribes and representatives of the U.S. government during this time, the council was plagued from the start with serious language barriers and cultural misunderstandings. A Jesuit observer, Father Adrian Hoecken, said that the translations were so poor that "not a tenth of what was said was understood by either side."
Historians believe that members of the tribal nations came to the council with the belief that they would be formalizing the friendly relations they already enjoyed with U.S. government representatives, Jesuit missionaries, and others who passed through their land. Conversely, Stevens was seemingly bent on the need for the tribal nations to cede the Bitterroot Valley, which was sought by white settlers for its relatively mild winters and potential for agricultural production.
It was at this site that Chief Victor of the Bitterroot Salish eventually marked an "X" on the treaty documents prepared by Stevens and his contingent. The Bitterroot Salish and their leader believed that they would not be required to leave the Bitterroot Valley as a result of the treaty signed at the 1855 Council. It would be 15 years before agents from the U.S. government came to enforce provisions of the treaty requiring the Bitterroot Salish to relocate to the Mission Valley.
Council Grove is now a quiet, serene state park. It is large enough at 187 acres for a walk or to find a quiet place next to the river for a picnic. The park is limited to day-use only activities with a handful of onsite amenities including vault toilets, picnic tables, drinking water, hiking trails, and ADA accessible facilities.
This park contains large, old-growth ponderosa pines, grassy meadows by the park picnic area, and large cottonwoods along the Clark Fork River.
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There's also an aspen grove fed by a vernal pool (a shallow depression in clay-like soil that fills with water seasonally) and makes great breeding habitat for frogs and salamanders.
The park is designated as a primitive park, meaning that further development is prohibited. There is no visitor center, camping or staff at this location.
Vehicle size is limited to passenger vehicles.
A monument in the park marks the location where the Hellgate Treaty was signed on July 16, 1855.
Although this site is day-use only, you’ll find many activities including: bird watching; fishing; hiking; photography; picnicking; and wildlife viewing.
The Montana State Parks Foundation helps fund work at parks, for more information log on to www.montanastateparksfoundation.org.