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Badrock Canyon

Text of historical marker just north of Columbia Falls

The Great Northern Railway was constructed through Badrock Canyon in 1891. Prior to that, in 1890, the railroad contracted with Shepard Siems & Company to construct a road on the opposite side of the river to carry supplies to the railroad workers. The high canyon walls on the south side of the river were a major obstacle to the contractor, requiring extensive blasting to carve the road high above the canyon’s floor. When completed in 1891, the road was so steep in places that wagons had to be lowered down it by ropes tied to trees-thus it was called the "Tote Road" by the local residents. It was not until sometime between 1906 and 1914 that the county built a new highway through the canyon, bypassing the old tote road with a more user-friendly thoroughfare.

Pioneer Billy Berne owned a small homesite at the west entrance to the canyon. Berne and his brother Mike came to Columbia Falls from Butte in 1889. For years the brothers manufactured bricks, which were used to construct many buildings in the area. In 1929, the construction of U.S. Highway 2 destroyed much of the Berne homesite. In 1953, a niece of the Berne Brothers sold a tract of canyon land to the State of Montana for use as a roadside park dedicated to the memory of her uncles.

Excerpted from "The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia".

Copyright © 2003 Michael Dougherty. Use of this material for radio and television programs, printed media, webcasting, and any other source of mass dissemination is prohibited without permission of the publisher.

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