Fort Benton

Fort Benton, one of the oldest communities in Montana, is built at the head of navigation on the Missouri River. The town operated as a major trading post for the American Fur Co. between 1850 to the late 1880s and was the world’s innermost port. 

Here supplies were unloaded and taken on freight wagons to gold camps in Helena, Virginia City, and other western locations within Montana. River rapids near Fort Benton prevented steamboats from going any further.

From 1860 to 1887, the town was known as "the toughest town in the West." Today it is the gateway for exploration of the Wild & Scenic Upper Missouri River.

The Grand Union Hotel, once the "finest hostelry between Seattle and the Twin Cities," was erected in 1882. This landmark hosted an array of guests who were stopping at the head of the Missouri, including Army officers, trappers, river captains, stockmen, missionaries and Indian agents. The hotel has been restored to its original grandeur for guests to enjoy today.

The lucrative trading diminished seemingly overnight when the Great Northern Railroad reached Helena in 1887. Ruins of the 250-foot square trading post and blockhouse still remain in the present-day tourist park; it is said that one wall on the back of the buildings was originally 32 feet thick. Many original buildings are still in use in Fort Benton.

 

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