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Missouri Headwaters State Park

Big Sky + Gallatin River Valley, Montana

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Missouri Headwaters State Park

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  • Welcome pavilion at Missouri Headwaters State Park.- Missouri Headwaters State Park
  • Walk to the the confluence of the Jefferson and Madison Rivers. The Gallatin joins in about a mile downstream. - Missouri Headwaters State Park
  • Beautiful scenery from the confluence.- Missouri Headwaters State Park
  • Ample parking is available for the Interpretative Plaza and picnic area.- Missouri Headwaters State Park
  • Interpretive Plaza features history and sounds of the area. The shelter features a natural sod roof!- Missouri Headwaters State Park
  • Walk along the trail to Fort Rock to see the Gallatin River and Lewis Rock. Lewis Rock takes its namesake from Meriwether Lewis, who used this high point to map the landscape on July 27, 1805.- Missouri Headwaters State Park
  • Find an open bench at Fort Rock and soak in the mountain views.- Missouri Headwaters State Park
  • Old homesteader building with a snow-capped view of the Bridger Mountain Range.- Missouri Headwaters State Park
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Rich history. Ample activities.
Cons: 
Surrounded by private land.
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Region:
Big Sky + Gallatin River Valley, MT
Congestion: 
Moderate
Pets allowed: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
State Park Fee
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Current Local Weather:
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Pro Contributor

As instructed by Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark famously ventured through this area in search of the Missouri River’s Headwaters. When they reached the confluence of the Gallatin, Jefferson, and Madison rivers, they were unsure of which river would lead to the Missouri’s headwaters. Meriwether Lewis scouted the land from a high point currently named Lewis Rock. On July 25, 1805, Clark wrote,

those three forks are nearly of a Size, the North fork appears to have the most water and must be Considered as the one best calculated to ascend.

The north fork of the river was actually the Jefferson River, which eventually took them a few hundred miles south to Brower Springs in the Centennial Mountains near Idaho.

Long before Lewis and Clark first ventured here, this land was visited by native peoples for thousands of years. The Crow called the Gallatin River the “Cherry River” for its ample fruit near the banks. The Madison River was called the “Straight River” as it seemed to flow straight out of the mountains to the south. The area was used for its stone, with chert being transformed into both tools and weapons. Some of these weapons were used by tribes in their seasonal buffalo hunt at the sheer limestone cliffs of Buffalo Jump State Park.

After Lewis and Clark’s journey, more people began to move westward with the passing of the Homestead Act in 1862. The government promoted the fertility of the open valley, encouraging farmers to take up land and reside in the area for five years at little cost.

Today, Missouri Headwaters State Park provides ample activities for young and old. Cyclists, walkers, and runners can enjoy time on the paved Missouri Headwaters Legacy Trail and other trails throughout the park. Anglers can take up fishing on the banks of different rivers. Anyone can take in the rich history of the area and enjoy the sight of three magnificent rivers coming together to form the Missouri river.

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Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide

Field Guide

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

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