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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.

Beavertail Hill State Park

Beavertail Hill State Park

Missoula is known for its identification as a ‘river culture’. This is what makes Beavertail Hill State Park a contender for the continuing love of water. One half mile of the park is located on the Clark Fork River. Boating, fishing, and floating are all the favorite activities to take place here.

Beavertail Hill State Park
Beavertail Hill State Park

If you need more water, then head on over to the Beavertail fishing pond which is fully stocked with rainbow trout, perch and whitefish. As far as ponds go, this is a bigger pond which should be classified as a lake. Boating is carry in only. But feel free to jump in and take a swim. This is a grand area for family memories to happen. If you still feel the fishing bug…Rock Creek is only four miles away and brags that there are 700 fish per mile. Rock Creek is a famous Blue Ribbon stream.

The park is over 65 acres and with so much depth to it. If you are into bird watching or wildlife viewing this place is geared to show you a small herd of deer or an occasional moose. There are one hour walking nature trails through the Cottonwood trees which defines the ominous setting. Wild turkeys are a common sighting.
The amenities rate pretty high for this park as well. Bring the R.V., or the tents. There are spacious campsites offered at a ‘first come, first serve’ basis. But then again… there are always the two Sioux style tipis for rent. They are 18 feet in size and sleep 6 to 8 people. The tipis are very well taken care of and offer a camping experience of different kind, one that is reflective of history and earlier times. Other amenities are the picnic tables, fire grills and R.V hook ups. Beavertail Hill State Park also host interpretive programs on Friday summer nights in their Amphitheater. If you need firewood, that can be purchased on spot as well. A comfort station, toilets and drinking water are also included.
Historical reminders of the area lay as remnants to railroad past of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroads. The railroad known as the “Old Milwaukee” was a unique route in a dozen states. This railroad was abandoned in 1980; leaving behind its legacy in old brick depots, electrical substations, and breathtaking tunnels. The park offers historical information on the Old Milwaukee Road.
Getting to Beavertail Hill State Park is an easy ride. Drive interstate 90 east of Missoula for about 26 miles until the sign prompts you the park is coming up. Take the exit #130, then drive approximately .25 mile south on Bonita Station Road to the park entrance. For those on their way to other destinations, this is a very convenient camping area as it is easily accessed from the freeway (and secretly hidden). The environment is better than any commercial campground. The park is open from May 1 to October 31.