The Land of 10,000 Haystacks
This spectacular high mountain valley stretches 59 miles along the western border of Beaverhead County and is framed by the Bitterroot Mountain Range, whose peaks soar to elevations nearing 11,000 feet. The average elevation of the valley is 6,245 feet—nearly 1.2 miles above sea level. This elevation is nearly twice as high as the average Montana elevation of 3,400 feet.
The valley today is an unusual blend of history and contemporary living. If you travel through at the right time of year, you might find yourself caught up in a cattle drive. If you drive through in the haying season, you might witness a unique method of haying that has changed little since the turn of the century. On the valley floor, 39 miles wide at its broadest point are expansive ranches reminiscent of the early West. Famed not only for its cattle, but the area also was acclaimed as the “Land of 10,000 Haystacks”, derived from its nutritious wild hay which boasts a worldwide reputation as having no parallel.
From its source in the south end of the valley, to just above Wise River, the Big Hole River falls more than 1,650 feet in elevation. 149 lakes feed into this river with around 58 found in the mountains surrounding the valley.
Population centers include Wisdom (120), Jackson, and Wise River (50 each). Annual events, attract national audiences, feature black powder shoots, 0ld Timer’s Day, Big Hole Battlefield celebration, Big Hole Valley Days, and cow pasture golf tournament.
In addition to the customary recreational activities, the Big Hole also lists such specialties as snowmobiling, dog sledding, trap shooting, hang gliding, brandings, gun shows, and fiddler’s contests.