Three Forks Chamber of Commerce

P.O. Box 1130• Three Forks, MT 59752
Phone: 406-285-4753

Three Forks is easily accessible off I-90 (exit 278), US-287, and Montana Highway 2, and lies enroute between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.

The Visitor center can be found as you enter town coming in off exit 278. It is housed in an old Milwaukee Railroad caboose at the south end of Milwaukee Railroad Park.

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The town of Three Forks derives its name from the headwaters of the Missouri, which is the confluence of three rivers: the Jefferson River, the Gallatin River, and the internationally famous Madison River. The town lies at 4,081 feet and is protected by the Rocky Mountains leaving the eastern side mild in the winter with cool mountain breezes in the summer.

Historically, these three tributaries of the Missouri have brought people of various cultures together. The Indians came together at this point because it was a convergence for wildlife and a crossroads of hunting trails. Fur trades found these river junctions a useful trading location. Today, the Headwaters Heritage Museum and Missouri Headwaters State Park preserve the intriguing history of this coming together of peoples and rivers.

Three Forks and the surrounding area is home to some of the most colorful Montana history. Located in the renowned Gallatin Valley, this unique region of Montana is known as the Headwaters Area and is made up of the towns of Three Forks, Willow Creek, Trident, and Logan, up the Jefferson toward Whitehall, up the Madison toward Harrison, and down the Missouri toward Townsend. Activity and discovery is abundant everywhere you look.

As what was once considered a crossroad of Indian trails, Three Forks holds the intrigue and excitement of rich Native American history. Just west of town, Sacajawea as a child was captured from her tribe, the Shoshones. She married a French-Canadian trapper, Toussaint Charbanneau, and together they guided the Lewis and Clark Expedition through the area in 1805.

The Corps of Discovery arrived at the headwaters of the Missouri River in July 1805. They camped for a week along the Jefferson River just above the headwaters, while Clark recovered from a fever. In 1806, Clark was guided by Sacajawea across the valley from the three forks to the pass leading directly into the Yellowstone River.

Three Forks is also the site of one of the bloodiest battles ever fought between the Blackfeet, the Flatheads and the Crow. John Colter took part in this fight on the side of the Flatheads and the Crows in 1808. Colter’s allies, though fewer in number, won the battle. In April 1810, the Missouri Fur Company established Fort Three Forks, but because of constant Indian attacks, the fort was abandoned before it was completed. Kit Carson narrowly escaped from a Blackfeet brave whom he killed on the bluffs north of Three Forks. The Headwaters State Park and the Headwaters Heritage Museum in downtown Three Forks, both display this fascinating history. Stop on in to experience these true historical tales, among others, right where it all took place.

History isn’t the only thing this town has to offer. Only eighteen miles west of Three Forks is the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, a treasure you won’t want to miss! This is Montana’s first state park and has perhaps the most impressive limestone caves in northwestern United States. It is truly an underground fairyland of ancient stalactites and stalagmites created millions of years ago. There is a gradual sloping trail leading to the caverns entrance and once inside be prepared for over 600 steps leading through hands-and-knees crawl space, narrow rock slides and cathedral-size chambers.

Looking for a little help with all that Three Forks has to offer? The Three Forks Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is open from Memorial weekend thru Labor Day weekend. You’ll see the Visitor Center as you enter town coming in off exit 278. It is housed in an old Milwaukee Railroad caboose at the south end of Milwaukee Railroad Park. The hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., seven days a week. Come in and start your adventure off right!

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