Fort Benton, the ‘Birthplace of Montana,’ offers culture, history, and adventure along the Missouri River Breaks. Located just 40 minutes north of Great Falls, Fort Benton is the perfect day trip during your visit to Great Falls; what will you find in this historic corner of Montana?
In 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition traversed the area. In 1846, Fort Benton was established as a trading post. In 1860, the first steamboat arrived, putting Fort Benton on the map as the world’s innermost port, quickly earning the town the reputation as the toughest town in the West. After the Civil War ended, a renewed focus on uniting the nation led to the building and naming of the storied Grand Union Hotel. This name symbolized the reunification of the nation and the promise of the West as a place to start anew. After Montana earned statehood, and in the 20th century, homesteaders, ranchers, and farmers developed the area.
Today, you can visit Fort Benton and breath in the past. You can feel history come alive, and you can see the dramatic views that only the Missouri River Breaks can offer. From Great Falls, leave in the morning to experience the dramatic beauty of a Montana sunrise. To the east, the sun will climb over the mountains, showering the wheat fields with a golden glow. Once you arrive in Fort Benton, explore the main street. Nestled along the Missouri River, the dramatic views of the breaks will compel you to enjoy a cup of coffee and take in a stroll along the banks. Walk over the famed bridge and watch as a bald eagle flies by.
Visit the statue of the famed Shep, one of Fort Benton’s most beloved residents. 75 years ago, the people of Fort Benton mourned the loss of a humble sheepdog who stood vigil for 5 1/2 years after his master’s casket left by train. A mere month after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US declaration of war, the death and funeral of Old Shep became a catalyst for collective grief and mourning. Boy Scouts served as pallbearers, the Mayors of Fort Benton and Great Falls attended, a bugler sounded Taps, and thousands mourned. 50 years later in 1992, Fort Benton memorialized Old Shep with a bronze statue created by Bob Scriver.
Visit the famed fort that gave the town its name. The Historic fort was a vital port along the Missouri, as well as an active trading post. The original fort still stands as a testament to the hardiness of the town site’s settlers. Every June, the Summer Celebration provides a 4-day festival featuring a PRCA rodeo, live music, historic re-enactments, fireworks, and art on the levee.
For a fun excursion, follow either the CM Russell or Lewis and Clark scenic drives for an adventure that will take you to Fort Benton and beyond, but bring you back to Great Falls in time for dinner, live music, and relaxing hospitality. Fort Benton offers fun excursions for visitors of all ages, and on the drive back to Great Falls, you will have a new appreciation for the landscape of Central Montana, its history, and its people. Plan your stay in Great Falls to experience this amazing place!