On Your Way: The Towns of Yellowstone
|For some traveling to Yellowstone this summer, the park is the main attraction, and nothing will deter them from reaching the park as quickly as possible. We at Montana Nuggets, however, encourage you to stop every once in a while and discover all that the region surrounding Yellowstone has to offer. The towns lining the Montana highways leading to Yellowstone National Park’s north and west entrances are treasure troves of beauty, history, recreation, and attractions you definitely don’t want to miss!
It all started in 1882 with a man named Joseph McBride who was sent to find a location to open a store that would supply workers on the new railroad. He chose the site of present day Livingston, bypassing the settlement of Benson’s Landing, a settlement that existed just a few miles down the Yellowstone. The store started out of tents, but it was not long until the downtown began to develop. Originally named Clark City after William Clark, the name Livingston became widely accepted after the director of the Northern Pacific, Crawford Livingston.
The historic Main Street is a reminder of the past, with grand old buildings that have been restored and preserved. Many of the buildings date back to the turn of the century, and much local effort was put into their restoration, that gives the downtown area a real charm. Many of these old buildings were hotels for the tourists who came through Livingston on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Back in the day, tourists had to change trains in Livingston to get to Gardiner, and many spent the night.
The Historic Depot Center was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1902, was used until the 1970s, and still stands today as the Chamber of Commerce and a railroading museum. By 1882, Livingston was a thriving community, complete with 30 saloons, six general stores, two hotels, two restaurants and more. At one time, up to 2,200 men worked for the railroad and were based in Livingston. Calamity Jane spent a fair amount of time in Livingston; it is said that she lived in a local hotel and even spent some time in the town’s jailhouse.
Today, Livingston has much to offer the locals and tourists visiting Montana. Located on the Blue Ribbon Trout waters of the Yellowstone River, Livingston is a fly fishing community with many outfitters and guides to accommodate the visitors. The city has over 13 art galleries to browse through, two playhouses, four museums, many unique downtown shops, and some great restaurants from which to choose. Whitewater rafting is also popular on the Yellowstone River. The Livingston Roundup Rodeo is held every year from July 2July 4 and draws competitors and visitors from
Serving as the original and only year-round entrance to the park, Gardiner offers a fine selection of motels, restaurants, shops, art galleries, churches, a small airport, and related visitor services. Campgrounds and trailer parks with hookups offer overnight services.
Gardiner has survived a rough and tumble existence of gold rushes, the railroad, and destructive fires. A tough little frontier town, it fed and sheltered miners, entertained the early soldiers who ran Yellowstone Park, and learned to host the pioneer visitor. Gardiner has matured, tempered, and grown to meet the needs of today’s visitor. It’s a good place, rich in history, in the heart of some of the West’s finest country.
Bozeman was named after John Bozeman, who blazed a trail across Wyoming, and in 1864, guided the first train of immigrants into the Gallatin Valley. When the first wagon train made its way through the canyon, frontiersman Jim Bridger was leading the way, thus the canyon, mountain range, and area trails now bear his name.
The area of Bozeman is brimming with adventure and an abundance of outdoor recreational possibilities, one of the most popular being fly-fishing. The rivers, streams, and lakes in the region provide some of the finest fly-fishing in the world with a backdrop of spectacular scenery. Over 2,000 miles of blue-ribbon trout streams weave through this sportsman’s paradise, while golf courses, first-class tennis courts, indoor and outdoor pools, and hot springs make Bozeman a city of diverse recreational opportunities. Just minutes away is the Bridger Bowl ski area featuring
The Yellowstone, Gallatin, and Madison rivers provide excellent rafting and kayaking for whitewater enthusiasts travelling to the Bozeman area, while the Gallatin National Forest is a wonderful place for nature or pleasure hikes. Bozeman is an exceptional town offering many opportunities for recreational experiences, while retaining its flavor as a thriving arts and culture community. Here, culture and entertainment are as abundant as the blue sky. Bozeman uniquely combines the classic Old West with the comforts and amenities of the new. Bozeman boasts art galleries, historic museums, symphony,and the state’s only opera company. It is also home to the main campus of Montana State University, the Museum of the Rockies, and Compuseum.
Following his lead, others moved into the area. Cattle ranching was soon superceded by dude ranches. Most of these, The 320 Ranch, Elk Horn Ranch, Lone Mountain Ranch, Covered Wagon Ranch, and the Nine Quarter Circle Ranch are still in full operation today. This was the beginning of the Big Sky tourist trade.
Native Montanan Chet Huntley had a dream for the area as well. In 1969, Huntley and a group of investors including Conoco, Burlington Northern, Montana Power, Chrysler Corporation and Northwest Orient Airlines purchased the Crail Ranch land. In 1973, his dream of creating a year-round resort community began to materialize with the official opening of Big Sky Ski & Summer Resort. In 1976, the Boyne Corporation acquired the property and began steps to develop and improve the area. Today it is a bustling year-round resort community.
The drive to Big Sky through the Gallatin Canyon is arguably the most beautiful drive in the state, and the area surrounding the resort is arguably some of the most beautiful and dramatic mountain scenery found anywhere in the country. From atop the singular and majestic Lone Peak, the view is one of endless mountain peaks. To the immediate north are the dramatic Spanish Peaks and the Spanish Peaks Wilderness area. Just 18 miles to the south is the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Over 3 million acres of pristine land surrounding Big Sky is set aside as wilderness area. Big Sky sits in the middle of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which has some of the cleanest air and water quality in the world. It’s not unusual to see moose, mountain goats, elk, big horn sheep, eagles, bear, deer or coyotes wandering around. The nearby Gallatin river is one of the best blue-ribbon trout streams in the world and was the filming site of “A River Runs Through It.”
West Yellowstone may well be one of the finest meccas for fly fishing enthusiasts. Many scenes from the movie “A River Runs Through It” were filmed on the Gallatin River north of West Yellowstone. Professional guides and outfitters throughout the area offer advice and service to visiting fisher-folk and are eager to help you make the most of your fishing excursion in Yellowstone Country.
With Yellowstone National Park at the front door, the hiking, biking, sightseeing, wildlife watching opportunities are endless, and the national forest lands which border West Yellowstone on the remaining three sides offer one breathtaking vista after another! Learn more at www.wyellowstone.com.
Partially reprinted from “The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia”