We love exploring America’s back roads and small towns and finding overlooked gems that the tourist brochures never cover. In a series of weekly blog posts we will be sharing some of America’s lesser-known small town museums, historic sites, and oddball attractions, on a state-by-state basis. We don’t have room to cover each and every attraction in every state, but hope to give you some ideas for places to see in your travels.
Bannack: Bannack is one of the state’s best preserved ghost towns. In 1862, Sheriff Henry Plummer and his gang of cutthroats controlled Bannack, hanging rivals and innocent people who got in their way in the name of the law. Vigilantes finally took matters into their own hands and hung Plummer and party in January, 1864.
Billings: The Western Heritage Center displays a collection of over 16,000 artifacts, including over 1,000 photographs that document the history and the development of the Yellowstone River Valley and the Northern Plains, and of the Native Americans; French fur trappers and traders; European, Russian, Asian and African immigrants, settlers, and soldiers who shaped the region.
Bozeman: The Museum of the Rockies displays a series of exhibits that take you from 4.6 billion years ago to the last 200 years of Montana’s history, from dinosaurs to cowboys and Indians.
Bozeman: The American Computer & Robotics Museum traces the history of computer technology from the earliest days to the present.
Bozeman: The Gallatin History Museum offers exhibits portraying the early days in the Gallatin Valley. Visitors can step inside an authentic 1870s log cabin, see a model of Fort Ellis, the sheriff’s room, which is highlighted by a hanging gallows, a visitor’s cell, an old whiskey still, and items collected from lawbreakers over the decades.
Browning: The Museum of the Plains Indian displays exhibits on the culture of Native American people, including the Blackfoot, Sioux, Crow, Cheyenne, and other Plains tribes.
Butte: You can almost hear the bawdy laughter of miners and harlots at the Dumas Brothel Museum here, which was a house of entertainment for over a hundred years before closing its doors in 1982.
Butte: The World Museum of Mining is a 44-acre museum that brings to life more than a century of American history. Visitors can explore more than 50 structures, ranging from the 100 foot high head frame of the Orphan Girl Mine, to a re-creation of a mining town, Hell Roarin’.
Bynum: At the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center here, visitors can assist staff in uncovering and preserving dinosaur fossils. Bones and fossilized dinosaur eggshells are common finds.
Crow Agency: In June, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and 262 soldiers of the 7th Cavalry serving under him were killed in a battle with Lakota and Cheyenne warriors in a battle that became known as Custer’s Last Stand. Today the historic battlefield has been preserved as Little Big Horn Battlefield, and visitors can walk where brave men fought and died on both sides of the battle lines.
Deer Lodge: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Old Montana State Prison was built by inmate labor and was home to at least one member of Butch Cassidy’s “Wild Bunch”. Now the Old Prison Museum, you can take guided and self-guided tours that lead you through the intimidating Cell House and into the chilling slide bar cells and black box of Maximum Security.
Deer Lodge: Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site is a working cattle ranch administered by the National Parks Service that preserves the ranching past of the American West. Visitors can tour the ranch property and see working ranch hands going about their daily chores.
Deer Lodge: The Montana Auto Museum displays an impressive collection of antique cars and trucks, from Tin Lizzies to 1960s muscle cars.
Eureka: The Tobacco Valley Historical Village includes Eureka’s first residence, a one room schoolhouse, train depot, and other historic buildings.
Fort Benton: The Museum of the Northern Great Plains has exhibits on the history and settlement of the region.
Fort Benton: The Museum of the Upper Missouri River is located on the site of an old fur trading post. Explorers Lewis and Clark spent time here on their trek west.
Great Falls: The Charles M. Russell Museum complex contains the world’s largest collection of the famed Western artist’s work, his original log-cabin studio, and his home.
Great Falls: The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center brings to life the daily experiences of the men who took part in the Great Voyage of Discovery and opened the American West.
Huson: For years the National Forest Services’ Ninemile Remount Station has housed mules used in backcountry firefighting, and continues to be used today. Visitors can tour the station, learn about fighting wildfires, and see retired mules who live out their lives at the station, which resembles a Kentucky horse farm more than a western operation.
Miles City: The Range Riders Museum displays artwork and artifacts celebrating the American cowboy.
Missoula: The Museum of Mountain Flying, located at Missoula International Airport, celebrates the tall timber pilots of America’s Rocky Mountain West.
Missoula: The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is headquartered here and operates a visitor center, with exhibits on elk and their life in the wild.
Missoula: The U.S. Forest Service Smokejumpers Visitor Center tells the story of the brave firefighters who parachute into the back country to battle wildfires.
Polson: The Miracle of America Museum houses a wide ranging collection, including World War I recruiting posters, vintage motorcycles, farm and ranch equipment, an 1880s horse drawn hearse, and 100,000 other rare and unique items.
Scobey: The Daniels County Museum and Pioneer Town complex includes exhibits on early homesteaders and a collection of antique cars.
Stevensville: The St. Mary’s Mission was established here in 1841, and today visitors can tour the grounds and the old Indian cemetery.
West Yellowstone: The Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center is a unique nonprofit wildlife park and educational facility. Here you will see wildlife as you’ve never seen it, with an up close view of live grizzly bears and a pack of gray wolves.
West Yellowstone: Located in the historic Union Pacific Depot, the Yellowstone Historic Center Museum showcases the history of visitation and transportation to our nation’s first National Park. The museum contains displays on stagecoach and railroad companies that brought tens of thousands of visitors to the park; the wildlife of the area, and the forest fires that have ravaged the region over the years.
Be sure to enter our Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Crazy Days in Big Lake, the third book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – I didn’t make it to the gym today. That makes five years in a row.