Powder River Trail

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Baker 59313,Southeast Montana

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This drive is short and doesn’t require a lot of description. Many of the sights along this trail have been described elsewhere in this section. Consider this an alternative route to I-94.

Exit I-94 at Wibaux, just west of the North Dakota border, and head south on Hwy. 7 to Baker. Just before you reach Baker stop at mile marker 44 where you can still see the ruts of wagon trains that passed through here. Because of its ample grasses to feed the horses and livestock, and its many springs, Baker was a favorite stopping point for wagon trains heading west.

While in Baker, be sure and stop at the O’Fallon Historical Museum. If you ask, the museum personnel will guide you to teepee rings and wagon ruts nearby.

From here you can move on to Miles City, or take a side trip to Ekalaka. The side trip is worthwhile.

Go south on Hwy. 7 for 25 miles to Medicine Rocks State Park. Indian hunting parties once gathered at these unique sandstone formations to pray to spirits. The pockmarked buttes make an excellent habitat for raptors. Here you can spot golden eagles, ferruginous hawks, kestrels, prairie falcons, and merlins. On the ground look for pronghorn antelope, mule deer, fox, and coyote. The Sioux Indians called this area inyan oka lo ka, or “rock with hole in it.”

After visiting the park, move on down to the little town of Ekalaka. This cowboy watering hole has a fine little museum worth a visit. The Carter County Museum has an excellent collection of fossils and dinosaur remains. The only Pachycephalosaurus remains in the world were unearthed by museum curator Marshall Lambert. They now reside in New York, but a plaster cast of the original is in the museum.

Head back to Baker and catch US 12 to Miles City. For the next few miles, you will be traveling through farm country dotted with random oil wells. At the town of Plevna you can turn south on Plevna Road and drive 7 miles to the South Sandstone Recreation area.

Continue on US 12 past Plevna for 12 miles. Here you can take CR 320 north to what was once the town of Ismay. It is now Joe. In 1993, the twenty-two people in the town changed the name to honor the football player of the same name. The only real reason to go here (aside from their annual rodeo) is to say you’ve seen Joe Montana.

From here to Miles City you will drive through badlands of coulees, buttes, and bluffs, and crumbly black deposits left by an ancient inland sea. You will cross over the Powder River traveling through what was once prime buffalo hunting grounds for the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians before connecting with I-94.

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