Musselshell River Montana


Nestled between the snow-capped peaks and forests of three mountain ranges, Harlowton offers the fresh air and close-knit harmony characteristic of Rural America. The Musselshell Valley in which it resides boasts a climate few Montana communities can claim, including moderate winters. 

Summer temperatures rarely top 90 degrees with pleasantly cool evenings. Winter temperatures seldom drop below zero and humidity generally remains under 35 percent.

Harlowton is historic ground. Professional and amateur paleontological teams have been uncovering a tremendous array of finds dating from prehistoric animals, birds, and fish clear through the days when the Crow and Blackfeet pursued buffalo herds in the area.

Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce crossed the Musselshell River near here during their historic retreat to Canada, and Army troopers were an important part of the country’s history in the 1870s and 80s. Chief Joseph Park in Harlowton is dedicated to the memory of a great Indian chief and his band of loyal followers. The park is located right along the highway within the city limits and provides camping facilities, as well as a fishing pond, rodeo grounds, and high school athletic track facility. A covered picnic shelter and children’s playground add to the attractiveness of the area as a resting place for travelers.

The Musselshell Valley first became home to ranchers who took full advantage of the lush grazing for cattle and sheep herds. Homesteaders moved onto the land that was more suitable for tilling. They were followed by the railroad, first by the "Jawbone" or Montana Railroad which later became part of the Milwaukee Railroad. Harlowton served as a division point and was the eastern end of the electrified lines until the Milwaukee went out of existence in 1980. The E-57B electric engine is still maintained in Harlowton as a monument to that era.

The agricultural heritage continues to dominate the area’s economy. Herds of cattle and sheep are spread over the valley, and fields of wheat, oats, barley, and hay add color to the country throughout the growing season.


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