The Mullan Road Historical Marker

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Helena ,Helena Area

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Historical Markers/Interpretive SignHistoric Sites
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Location: W. of Helena at McDonald Pass

From this point west to the Idaho line I-90 follows the route of a military road located and constructed during 1858-62 by Captain John Mullan, 2nd Artillery, U.S. Army. The road was 624 miles long and connected Fort Benton, Montana, with Fort Walla Walla, Washington. An average wagon outfit required a minimum of forty-seven days to travel it.

The Captain, aside from his engineering ability, was a man of considerable acumen as evidenced by the following excerpts from his final report. He prophesied “… the locomotive engine will make passage of the … wild interior at rates of speed which will startle human credulity.”

Mullan himself might have been incredulous had he seen the freight train that crossed this divide in 1865. Seven camels, each laden with 600 pounds of flour, made the trek from Helena to the Deer Lodge mines. One of the less successful experiments in American transportation history the dromedary carried tremendous loads, was sure-footed and had great stamina, but the horses, mules, and oxen of the teamsters and mule train packers stampeded at the sight and smell of them. The camels were gone from Montana by 1867.

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