Missoula, Kalispell, and Northwest Montana Feature

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Montana Dude Ranches

By the late 1800s stories of the jagged peaks and roaring rivers in the Rocky Mountains had caught the nation's imagination. Travelers headed west on the recently completed transcontinental railroads to see these wonders firsthand. They stayed where they could, which often meant rustic ranches. It worked out well—ranchers, starved for fresh faces and news from back home, were pleased to have the company. Soon ranches began hosting paying guests. These "dudes" stayed for weeks or months, and participated in day-to-day operations. By 1940 there were more than 300 dude ranches in the United States and Canada. Today you'd be hard pressed to find one of these places calling itself a dude ranch—"guest ranch" sounds better—and the typical stay is about a week. Activities include trail rides, barbecues, hoedowns, and sometimes opportunities to work the livestock. The week often culminates in an O-Mok-See, a series of competitive horseback events.

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