Montana’s major historic preservation group invited us to participate in their traveling Road Show in Lewistown earlier this month, and we were delighted to be able to join them for their tour of the Wild and Scenic Missouri River.
“The idea is to get people out to see and experience these places, so that they will care about preserving them,” Montana Preservation Alliance‘s Christine Brown told us on the yellow school bus that took us up to Judith Landing for a day-long canoe trip on the Missouri.
Shades of junior high: MPA’s Christine Brown takes roll call on the bus. (Photo Friends.)
But first, the bus dropped us in the Monument gateway town of Winifred, Montana (pop. 208) to have a look at the Winifred Museum. It was my first time stopping in at the museum, and it did not disappoint. I spent a lot of time appreciating the historic gun collection and the life-sized model of the enormous tri-horned dinosaur skull found in the area.
Close-up of a shotgun owned by the foreman of Granville Stuart’s historic DHS ranch. Pretty cool! (Photo Friends.)
Our next stop was Judith Landing, and we heard historical and cultural background from Maria Zedeno, an anthropology professor (and expert on Blackfeet) at the University of Arizona, and from Helena-based historian Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs.
Historian Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs (right) tells the group about the Judith River’s namesake, Judith Hancock Clark, who was the first wife of explorer Capt. William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame). (Photo Friends.)
And then we piled into canoes to paddle to the Hagadone Homestead, about 12 miles down the river. Or up river, as it felt like with the 20-30 mile/hour headwinds. This photo probably won’t do justice to how hard it was blowing that day — in the really windy spots, I was too busy paddling to take good photos of the white caps on the river.
And we’re off! One group of eight paddles toward Hagadone homestead, about 12 miles downstream. (Photo Friends.)
It might have been a hard paddle, but as always on what we call the “lower river” (Judith Landing to James Kipp Rec Area), the wildlife put on an excellent show. We saw bald eagles, white pelicans, a nighthawk, and the biggest softshell turtle I’d ever seen, slipping into the river off the point of a small island. Later in the day we saw five Bighorn rams in the uplands.
But back to the history. Our only stop was the Hagadone homestead, so named for the tough homesteader Frank Hagadone, who came to Montana as a range cowboy in the 19th century and stayed to farm a lonely plot of land in the Breaks.
BLM archaeologist Zane Fulbright (left), tells the Preservation Alliance crowd about the Hagadones surviving rattlesnakes and long silent winters at the homestead named for them on the Monument. (Photo Friends.)
Then it was back in the canoes for a short jaunt over to Stafford Ferry, where our yellow school bus awaited.
A Preservation Alliance supporter rows like the dickens to get us to Stafford Ferry in one piece. We made it! (Photo Friends.)
Wind-blasted or no, I kept thinking of one of the BLM managers in Lewistown, who likes to point out, “Any day on the river is a good day.” And it was especially good to get a historical perspective on this river we work to protect. I am usually struck by the natural history of this river, but the thousands of years of human history on the Wild and Scenic Missouri is also such an important part of what makes the Monument so special. Thank you, MPA, for inviting us on this trip and for letting us chat with your members about how they can help us protect the Monument!
— Beth Kampschror, Executive Director