Located between the Gallatin and Crazy Mountain ranges and surrounded by the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area, the town of Livingston was established around the railroad in the 1880s. The Crow Indians occupied the land along the Yellowstone River for thousands of years before the white settlers move in, and the Absaroka Mountains are named after the Crow. Lewis & Clark were among the first white men to travel through this area and were followed by traders and trappers. As the Northern Pacific Railroad was making its way through, they chose Livingston as their base camp and set up a town that revolved around the railroad with repair shops and a thriving downtown.
It all started in 1882 with a man named Joseph McBride who was sent to find a location to open a store that would supply workers on the new railroad. He chose the site of present-day Livingston, bypassing the settlement of Benson’s Landing, a settlement that existed just a few miles down the Yellowstone. The store started out of tents, but it was not long until the downtown began to develop. Originally named Clark City after William Clark, the name Livingston became widely accepted after the director of the Northern Pacific, Crawford Livingston.
The historic Main Street is a reminder of the past, with grand old buildings that have been restored and preserved. Many of the buildings date back to the turn of the century, and much local effort was put into their restoration, which gives the downtown area a real charm. Many of these old buildings were hotels for the tourists who came through Livingston on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Back in the day, tourists had to change trains in Livingston to get to Gardiner and many spent the night.
The Historic Depot Center was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1902, was used until the 1970s, and still stands today as the Chamber of Commerce and a railroading museum. By 1882, Livingston was a thriving community, complete with 30 saloons, six general stores, two hotels, two restaurants, and more. At one time, up to 2,200 men worked for the railroad and were based in Livingston. Calamity Jane spent a fair amount of time in Livingston, it is said that she lived in a local hotel and even spent some time in the town’s jailhouse.
Today, Livingston has much to offer the locals and tourists visiting Montana. Located on the Blue Ribbon Trout waters of the Yellowstone River, Livingston is a fly fishing community, with many outfitters and guides to accommodate the visitors. The city has over 13 art galleries to browse through, two playhouses, four museums, many unique downtown shops, and some great restaurants to choose from. Whitewater rafting is also popular on the Yellowstone River. The Livingston Roundup Rodeo is held every year from July 2–July 4 and draws competitors and visitors from all over the country.