If you’d like to know more about the history of the Bitterroot Valley, I know of no better place to start than the Ravalli County Museum, located at 205 Bedford, Hamilton. There are varied collections, from pre-Columbian artifacts to Operation Desert Storm. They offer rotating exhibits, musical events, and perhaps best known, the Annual Apple Day Festival where visitors avail themselves of all things apple–homemade pies, cider, and apple butter, while browsing the many craft booths. For more information, call 363.3338.
Visit the Daly Mansion, Eastside Highway, Hamilton, for a sampling of Montana history. Get a sense for the life of mining magnate Marcus Daly who first came to the Valley in the 1880’s seeking lumber for The Anaconda Company, a mining operation in Butte, which he helped found. He bought this homestead as a summer home, remodeled it extensively, and renamed it the Bitterroot Stock Farm; here he bred racing horses.For more information, call 375-0048.
Daly Mansion hosts a number of events including a Spring Speakers Program, Mother’s Day Tea, Daly Days, Bitterroot Scottish Irish Festival, and Holly Jolly Craft Show.
St. Mary’s Mission, was founded by Father Pierre De Smet in 1841, in Stevensville, which later became known as The Place Where Montana Began.
Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum, Darby, is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and contains memorabilia and photos of pioneer families. See the museum and enjoy a picnic in the town park.
Victor Heritage Museum, Victor, is located at Main Street and Blake, 2 block off Highway 93, in the old Northern Pacific Railroad depot.. It’s goal is to preserve the history of the area. There’s a lovely park in town for picnicking.
Travelers’ Rest Park and Holt Museum is the only verified campsite of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, used September 9-11, 1805, and again from June 30-July 3, 1806. It is located at 6717 Highway 12, just west of Lolo, off Highway 93.. Enjoy walking in the park along the banks of Lolo Creek and watching for birds—over 115 species have been sighted. Interpretive programs are offered in the summer, and traditional storytelling by Montanan historians occur throughout the winter.You’ll find an example of the winter programming here.
Start your visit to the Big Hole National Battlefield (directions here) at the Visitors’ Center, watch an excellent introductory film, and then take a self-guided tour of the battlefield. A Summer Speakers’ Series is offered on the weekends. Kids can learn how to put up a tipi and how to become a Junior Ranger.
Missoula and Beyond
Are you interested in digging for dinosaur bones? I don’t know a kid (or grownup) who isn’t. Here’s a great road trip to the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center in Bynum where you can participate in a 3-hour to a 2+days dig.
You can take the easy way, 4 hours, to Bynum as MapQuest suggests, OR, you can make a weekend of it. We’ve done both, and I am here to tell you, you will always remember the route I’m going to suggest. Hamilton to Missoula, 8 mi. east on I-90 to MT-200 E., 33 mi., to MT-83 where you’ll turn left for 91 mi, traveling past Seely Lake and Swan Lake-great places for picnics. Turn right on MT-35 for 11 mi, turn right on MT-206 for 10 mi, right on US-2 15 mi.
Get out your park pass, or purchase a 7-day $25 permit, past Lake McDonald, onto the glorious Going-to-the-Sun Highway. 48 mi later you’re in St. Mary, where you’ll turn right on US-89. You should stop at Browning at the Museum of Plains Indian.
And then . . . . . . . you’ll be so into dinosaurs,you’ll want to follow the Dinosaur Trail. On the site, click on each of the names to get more information.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Visitor Center, 5705 Grant Creek Road, Missoula offers interactive exhibits, walking trail, wildlife films.
Smokejumper Center, 5765 West Broadway, Missoula (near the airport), is the largest training center in the U.S. Displays, videos, tours (Memorial Day through Labor Day) of the parachute loft and training facilities, gift shop.
Missoula Art Museum, 335 N Pattee St, Missoula, states their mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit and research art that is relevant to the culture of the American West with an emphasis on contemporary Montana artists. They offer guided tours, all-age classes, and family workshops. There is an onsite library and a gift shop.
The People’s Center in Pablo offers a look at the history of the Salish, Pend d’Oreille and Kootenai Tribes. Cultural collections, guided, and self-guided audio, tours, gift shop, beading circle are all part of the museum.
Nine Pipes Museum, Charlo, near the National Bison Range, has displays of western artists (including Charles Russell), photographs, Indian artifacts, Native American beadwork; a life-size diorama, and a Nature Trail.