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Missouri River headwaters

Missouri Headwaters State Park is located outside of Three Forks.

The Montana State Parks Foundation is publishing a weekly showcase of Montana State Parks' 55 properties. 

Just a few minutes outside of Three Forks and only 35 minutes outside of Bozeman is Missouri Headwaters State Park.

The convergence of the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers is the start of the longest river in North America, the Missouri. Considered an essential part of the geography of the western United States, Capt. Meriwether Lewis described this area as... "the country opens suddenly to extensive and beautiful plains and meadows which appear to be surrounded in every direction with distant and lofty mountains."

Did you know?

The three rivers that converge to form the Missouri River are named for President Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State James Madison and Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin.

You won’t run out of activities at Missouri Headwaters.

Looking to camp in history? There are 17 campsites available and you can even rent a tepee.

Interpretive displays describing the area’s cultural and natural history can be found to help guide you.

Take your bike for a spin on the many trails throughout the park, or hike the routes.

Take a float down the river, you’ll have your choice of three.

Visit Fort Rock to take a look at historic pictographs.

The rich, fertile soil along with the proximity to fresh water brought the Flathead, Bannock and Shoshone Indians to the region and later trappers and settlers.

Known for an abundance of wildlife, Missouri Headwaters State Park is a great place to explore, but don’t forget your bug spray.

In addition to its vast natural resources and outdoor activities, Missouri Headwaters State Park also boasts extensive cultural history — ranging from the tribes that lived there thousands of years ago to Lewis and Clark to fur traders to settlers.

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In late July 1805, William Clark and a small number from the Corps of Discovery reached the Headwaters while scouting for Shoshone Indians, whom they hoped would sell them horses. It was Sacajawea, who recognized the area as where she was captured as a child by the Hidatsa, who led the expedition successfully there.

While at the confluence, Clark left a note for Meriwether Lewis to find and later Lewis Rock was named for him.

In addition to its history with the Corps of Discovery, you can also find the remnants of the long empty, western town of Gallatin City. Settlers convinced that commerce would arrive above Great Falls, and with hope to supply nearby gold camps, founded Gallatin City in 1862, a year before what is now Bozeman was platted.

The city eventually moved to the far side of the river as Gallatin City II, and later died when the Northern Pacific railroad decided to lay track south of town.

You can still see the original Gallatin City Hotel amongst other artifacts at Missouri Headwaters State Park.

Missouri Headwaters State Park features several miles of paths for walking, biking, and hiking, that traverses the old Gallatin City townsite along the banks of the rivers. This trail then leads you to the top of the bluff overlooking the river valley and provides a breathtaking view of the convergence of the rivers.

The Montana State Parks Foundation helps fund work at parks, for more information log on to www.montanastateparksfoundation.org.

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