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Scenic Missouri River

People canoeing
Canoeing.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism

People canoeing
Canoeing.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism

Rafting trip
Rafting.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism

"...it seemed as if those seens of visionary inchantment would never end."

- Lewis
31 May 1805

This point along the Bitterroot River south of present-day Lolo was a camp for the expedition on both legs of the trip. They rested here at the mouth of Lolo Creek in 1805 before setting out on another grueling trip, this time on the Lolo Trail. This trail through the Lolo Pass would take the Corps 11 days to cross. After a two day rest, they set out on September 11, concerned about their lack of provisions. Game would be scarce, if not nonexistent, in the mountains and the provisions they had with them were all but gone.

They did get one piece of good news from their guide. He told them of a reliable trail east to Gates of the Mountains. It would take weeks off of their return trip.

In 1806 the returning expedition divided here to follow different rivers. Lewis headed north to explore the sources of the Marias, hoping to find a natural northern boundary for America's new territory. Clark's party followed the Yellowstone.

The valley has seen a good deal of history and has been put to many uses. The Bitterroot River has always been a popular fishing corridor.

In 1841, famed "black robe" Jesuit Father Pierre De Smet established a Catholic mission at Stevensville. St. Mary's Mission was built at the request of the Flathead tribe. It was abandoned and sold for $250 in 1850 to John Owen. Fort Owen, a trading post built of adobe and logs, later served as agency headquarters for the Flathead Reservation.

Around the turn of the century, the valley was apple country, but nitrogen-poor soil and fractious weather, doomed the industry.