Continental Divide - Elevation 6,325

Continental Divide - Elevation 6,325

West of Helena at McDonald Pass,Helena ,Helena Area

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Location: W. of Helena at McDonald Pass

MacDonald Pass joins two other Continental Divide crossings as vital links between east and west in Montana. Both Mullan and Priest Passes, just north of this route, had roads as early as the 1850s. In 1870, E. M. “Lige” Dunphy built a toll road over this portion of the Divide making extensive use of log “corduroying” in muddy spots. He hired Alexander “Red” MacDonald to manage the toll gate with charges for all types of transportation except pedestrians and those traveling after dark. During the early 1880s, a half-dozen six-horse stages a day passed this way to and from Helena and western Montana.

In September of 1911, Cromwell Dixon earned a $10,000 prize when he became the first aviator in America to fly over the Continental Divide not too far from this spot. Today a four-lane highway and an air beacon replace buckboards and biplanes of earlier eras.


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