Billings, Little Big Horn, and the Montana Plains: Places to Explore

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Fort Benton

The gateway to the Upper Missouri River, this town of 1,594 people has a rich and rugged past that's captured in a trio of excellent museums. Lewis and Clark first camped at this site less than an hour downriver from Great Falls in 1805. As a quick and easy way to move people, the Missouri River was the lifeblood of 19th-century Fort Benton. The first steamboat arrived here from St. Louis in 1859, and the city once claimed distinction as the farthest inland port in the world. Throughout the 1860s gold taken from mines across Montana was shipped downriver via Fort Benton; in 1866 alone, the town shipped 2½ tons of gold dust. The river still moves people today, not to seek their fortune in the goldfields but to paddle its placid waters amid the peaceful, serene, and beautiful countryside.

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