Outlaws, Oldtrails and the Sioux and Assiniboine Nations Route

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Outlaws, Oldtrails and the Sioux and Assiniboine Nations Route

Northeast Montana

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You will cover 188 miles on this circle trip so allow yourself some time. You will probably need to take at least a couple of days even if you hurry through.

Lewis and Clark camped near Wolf Point where you begin this tour on May 5, 1805. They recorded killing a large grizzly bear on the banks of the Missouri which measured 8 feet 7 1/2 inches long and weighed in at 500-600 pounds.

Leave Wolf Point and head east on Highway 2 to Poplar. The headquarters of the Sioux and Assiniboine tribes is located here. Take some time to visit the cultural center and museum located on the east end of town.

Lewis and Clark camped on the Poplar River near here, about 3 1/2 miles upstream from where it enters into the Missouri River. Because of the abundance of porcupine in the area, the team named the river the Porcupine River. The name was later changed to the Poplar River reflecting the abundance of poplar trees along the river’s banks.

Six miles past Poplar, turn left on Highway 151and head to Flaxville a little more than 50 miles away. While driving this road it can’t be explained, but you’ll know you are driving north and uphill. You’ll see why. Most of this stretch consists of vast open wheat fields stretching to the horizon.

Somewhere south of Flaxville, you’ll cross the old Wood Mountain Trail. This trail was practically a highway leading to Wood Mountain in Saskatchewan, Canada. It was a popular wintering place for plains tribes because of its abundant water, trees, and good habitat for game. This is the route Sitting Bull took when escaping to Canada after the Battle of Little Bighorn. This trail began somewhere near the Yellowstone River to the southeast and went through Fort Union near Sidney. Not only was it only a popular trail for Indians, but for hunters, trappers, and eventually homesteaders.

When you reach Flaxville at the junction of Highway 5 continue north through town on Highway 511 to Whitetail. When you reach the rise just before town, you can get a great photo of the town nestled in the valley of Whitetail Creek.

When you’re finished visiting Whitetail, head back to Flaxville and go west on Highway 5. When you get to Scobey, be sure and visit Pioneer Town, a recreation of a turn-of-the-century homestead town (see sidebar).

When you’ve finished in Scobey, head back east to Plentywood. On the way stop in Redstone. This town took its name around 1900 from the red shale in the area. You are now entering the “Wild West” of legend.

Leave Plentywood southward toward Culbertson. On the way, spend some time at Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge (see sidebar). When you reach Culbertson drive south a few miles on Highway 16 to the Missouri River for a great view of the “Big Muddy” and surrounding badlands. Back in town, stop at the Culbertson Museum and Visitors Center on the east side of town.

From Culbertson, head back to Wolf Point on Highway 2. This was the Minnesota Wagon Road in the late 1800s. You can still see a roadhouse from those days where Big Muddy Creek meets the Missouri River. In 1883 a toll bridge was built there, and in 1867, Pony Express riders from Minneapolis rode the area that parallels today’s US Highway 2. If you have the time take a side road down to the Missouri. Try to picture the trappers in their dugout boats and the steamboats parading upriver to Fort Benton.

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