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beaverhead rock

Beaverhead Rock State Park

Beaverhead Rock State Park

Beaverhead Rock - 1871
Beaverhead Rock – 1871 Plank Bridge

Beaverhead Rock State Park is more about commemoration than of activities. Also known as ‘Point of Rocks’ formation, it sits alone at 4,900 above sea level. What you witness is a recognized landmark of a beaver head shaped rock yet the story behind this resemblance of a swimming beaver is legendary. It plays a significant part of the journey done by Lewis and Clark. Sacagawea, their Shoshone guide, recognized the rock from her childhood and knew immediately her people were nearby. Clark and his main party reached the rock on August 10, 1805 with eight dugout canoes. Lewis had passed this rock two days earlier and diverted on a well known Indian trail 60 more miles. The curvy, very twisted Beaverhead River curls like a snake below the rock formation. Clark believed he was still on the Jefferson River; which left the expedition party exhausted and running low on supplies.

The expedition was in desperate need from the tribal people of the area and Sacagawea’s memory gave them much wanted hope. “She assures us that we shall either find her people on this river [the Beaverhead] or on the river immediately west of its source; which from its present size cannot be very distant,” Meriwether Lewis wrote in his journal on August 8, 1805.

Lewis & Clark Expedition - Sacagawea Standing
Lewis & Clark Expedition – Sacagawea Standing

Years later the historical path became a stage stop near the formation. The stop was the hub between Virginia City and Bannack during the gold rush. The trail brought settlers, and prospectors. Ranchers used the area for ritual cattle drives. From 1860 to 1880s, this path was one of the most traveled in Montana. By 1920, everything was gone.
In 1975, Beaverhead Rock became a state park and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The 30 acre park is considered primitive and offers no amenities. The site is somewhat accessible, without a marked turnoff and a pretty rough road; but for the adventurous who love to hike then access is manageable. There are a couple great ways to see the swimming beaver shaped formation. One is from the top of Clark’s Lookout State Park in Dillon and the other is to drive about 14 miles south of Twin Bridges on Montana Highway 41. There is a pullout overlooking the park along with the historical information signs and a cool bird sculpture. The Beaverhead Gateway ranch wetlands now run close to the formation near the base of the bluff.
Near Beaverhead Rock State Park are other attractions such as Bannack State Park, historic Virginia and Nevada cities, and Clark’s Lookout State Park. Montana is home to some of the greatest history of old west times.