The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness

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Pray 59047,Livingston Area

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Location: Milepost 24 on Hwy. 89, south of Emigrant

The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, which lies to the east, contains the largest single expanse of land above 10,000 feet in elevation in the United States. The U.S. Forest Service set aside portions of the region as primitive areas in 1932, and Congress voted it a wilderness area in 1978. Visitors spent 392,000 collective days here in 1983, making it the fourth most visited wilderness in America.

Artifacts and pictographs indicate that people have hunted in these mountains for thousands of years, but it has always been country for people to visit, not live in. Reserved by treaty for the Crow in the early 1800s, the tribe shared with the less-rugged mountains on the west side of the wilderness (that you can see from here) their name for themselves, Absaroka (Absoarkey). The rugged mountains on the east side they named Beartooth, after one tooth-shaped peak. Gold discoveries in the 1860s attracted prospectors to Emigrant Gulch, and an 1880 treaty moved the reservation boundary eastward to allow previously clandestine mining claims to be developed.

The entire wilderness is a watershed for the Yellowstone, the longest undammed river left in the United States. It flows over 670 miles from its sources out of Yellowstone National Park and is the lifeblood of about one-third of Montana and much of northern Wyoming.

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