About the Grand Union Hotel
Grand Union Hotel in Fort Benton Montana for Montana Hotel Lodging Big Sky Montana Lodging

Area Info

Fort Benton is a living tribute to the days when the West was wild, the landscape uncharted and rivers connected the country.

Walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, visit historical landmarks or float and explore the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument considered the best place in the nation to experience the Lewis & Clark Trail.

Fort Benton is nestled alongside the Missouri River on the High Plains of Montana. The region defines Big Sky Country with its blue dome of sky overhead, the Rocky Mountains faintly in view and the sacred buttes and peaks of Central Montana looming nearby.

The climate in the summer is typically hot and dry, cooling off toward evening especially in the river valley. During spring and autumn it is warm during the day and cool in the evenings. While it is cold in winter, the area receives generous winter sunshine and crystal clear skies. Warm Chinook winds also are common in winter snapping a cold streak in hours. At any time, sudden weather changes are common, so be prepared. Sweaters and jackets come in handy even in summer and layering is recommended.

Fort Benton Activities

Canoe and Floating

There are 3 rivers in the Fort Benton area from the Teton, to the Marias and the Wild & Scenic Missouri River. Each provides a flat water canoe or float experience. Bring your own canoe or rent one. Go by yourself or arrange a river guide. Along the way you're sure to see bald eagles, deer, beaver, geese, cranes and hear the yelp of a lonesome coyote. The Wild & Scenic Missouri River is considered the best place in the nation to experience the Lewis & Clark Trail. See the legendary White Cliffs of the Missouri, the area described by Captain Lewis as "…scenes of visionary enchantment." Deep within the Missouri River Breaks bighorn sheep and elk frequent the riverbank. Visit these sites:

Museum of the Northern Great Plains

The Museum of the Northern Great Plains is the official museum of agriculture for the state of Montana. It tells the story of three generations of farmers from 1908 until 1980. It is about their lives, their culture, and their work. The museum has 30,000 square feet of exhibition space with a village of businesses from the homestead era of the 1920's. The facility contains a research library and archives with meeting rooms and facilities for programs, seminars, and workshops. On the four-acre site is an outside exhibit of unique antique farm machinery. The museum is open mid-May to mid-September and is across the street from the high school football field. [website]

Museum of the Upper Missouri

The history of Fort Benton and the Upper Missouri River region from 1800 to 1900 is yours to explore at this Museum. It highlights the important role Fort Benton played in the settlement of the American West as a trading post, military fort and the head of steamboat navigation on the Missouri River. [website]

Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center

The Interpretive Center is located in Fort Benton, Montana, and interprets the grandeur and wonder of Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River and the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. From hands-on exhibits and special educational programs to a relaxing riverside walking trail, our facility tells about the area's cultural and natural history. [website]

Hours of Operation

  • Summer (Memorial Day Weekend through September 30)
  • Open Daily 8 a.m.–5 p.m. (including federal holidays
  • Winter (October 1 to Memorial Day Weekend)
  • Open Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–5 p.m. (closed federal holidays) 
  • Fees
  • Adults (ages 16 and older): $2.00
  • Children (those under 16): FREE

Golf

Fort Benton's Signal Point Golf Course has 9 holes overlooking the Wild & Scenic Missouri River considered to be one of the finest, most challenging 9 hole courses in the State. The golf course has a pro and well-equipped pro shop with rentals available if you don't have your own equipment with you. One mile southeast on Hwy. 87.

Historic Fort Benton Site

The Fort was originally built in 1846 as a trading fort by the American Fur Company for trade with the Blackfoot. The remaining blockhouse is the oldest man made structure in the state. [website]

The completed Fort buildings are now open to the public.  Guided Tours are offered from the end of May through the end of September.  The tours originate at the Museum of the Upper Missouri. An admission fee is charged.  Payment of the admission fee entitles you to the tour of Historic Old Fort Benton, and entry at the Museum of the Northern Great Plains, the Museum of the Upper Missouri, and the Upper Missouri Breaks Interpretive Center. [web store]

Outdoor Activities

Downhill Skiing

Located in the Little Belt Mountains 90 miles away southeast of Great Falls Showdown Ski Area offers a wide range of sking opportunities boasting 34 runs with longest being 2 miles. Downhill and telemark skis, snowbikes and snowshoes are all available for rental. There is a day use lodge, cafeteria, lounge and coffee bar as well. [website]

Fishing

The Missouri River above Great Falls has some of the best trout fishing in Montana. Below Great Falls from Fort Benton to Fort Peck walleye, northern pike, trout, and even sturgeon can be found. The Grand Union can arrange a guided fishing trip or direct you to the river, lake or reservoir of your choosing. [website]

Hunting

The area around Fort Benton is rich with game from trophy class white tail and mule deer, to antelope, elk, pheasants and grouse. We can help you plan your hunting trip with a professional outfitter or direct you to a local hunting guide.

Giant Springs Heritage State Park

Boasts one of the world's largest natural fresh water springs and world's shortest river. 5 miles east of downtown Great Falls on River Drive. Fee charged. On your way, view Black Eagle Dam and Falls, Giant Springs, Roe River, state fish hatchery and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Visitor Center (open year round, no fee). Picnic and recreation facilities available.

Missouri Breaks National Back Country Byway

The Missouri Breaks National Back Country Byway traverses one of the most geologically unique and historically significant areas in Montana. Nature worked overtime here to fashion a ruggedly spectacular landscape that was first described by Lewis & Clark as the "Deserts of America." Fur Traders would later refer to this section of the Missouri River as Mauvaises Terres, the "Bad Lands."

The Byway leads the visitor to scenes overlooking the Upper Missouri National Wild & Scenic River. It was designated in 1976 to preserve to preserve the very values that are so abundant along the Byway. The Wild & Scenic River from Fort Benton down river to the James Kipp Recreation area is the foremost component of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail. The Byway northeast from Winifred to Deweese Ridge closely follows the Nez Perce National Historic Trail.

Picnicking

The Fort Benton area is a beautiful place to gather up some lunch items, friends and family and head for the rivers, hills or prairies. The Grand Union can put together a boxed lunch for you or you can arrange one at one of the other restaurants in town or gather some items on your own from the local grocery store. Ask the front desk to recommend a spot for you to go enjoy Big Sky Country.

Photography

Photography amateurs and professionals alike will enjoy the scenery and plentiful wildlife our area has to offer.

Walking

Stroll along the historic levee on a self guided tour viewing the interpretive signs, historic buildings and the ruins of the old Fort.

Rivers Edge Trail

A ten mile paved non-motorized-use trail which follows the Missouri River from Oddfellows Park, through Gibson Park in downtown Great Falls, through Giant Springs past Black Eagle Falls to Rainbow Falls overlook.

Wildlife

C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge

The CMR National Wildlife Refuge is the second largest wildlife refuge in the continental United States. These grasslands preserve the now-dwindling prairie habitat that once covered a quarter of the nation. It is a prime location for wildlife viewing.

Pronghorn antelope, deer, and prairie dogs share the landscape with one of the largest remaining prairie herds of elk. Raptors and other birds are readily seen, including eagles, hawks, grouse and quail.

The refuge is also home to one of the world's last free-roaming black-footed ferret populations. Diseases and massive hunts to eliminate prairie dogs from the prairies and plains reduced the black-footed ferret's main food supply. The ferrets dwindled in number and when the last of nine captive animals died in 1978, they were thought to be extinct. In 1981 biologists found and rounded up 18 in Wyoming. Now, in isolated areas in several western states, both captive and free-roaming colonies are being transplanted and nurtured. Despite such attempts at population increase, the ferret remains the rarest mammal in North America.

In places like the refuge and Greycliff Prairie Dog Town near Big Timber, the prairie dog has made a comeback. The rodent's form communal burrows called "towns" and have the remarkable ability to go without water for years. Wildlife biologists credit this ability and their system of "barking" communication for their survival. Lewis and Clark spent nearly an entire day trying to extract a breeding pair of these same animals to be sent back to Thomas Jefferson.

Giant Springs Heritage State Park

Boasts one of the world's largest natural fresh water springs and world's shortest river. 5 miles east of downtown Great Falls on River Drive. Fee charged. On your way, view Black Eagle Dam and Falls, Giant Springs, Roe River, state fish hatchery and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Visitor Center (open year round, no fee). Picnic and recreation facilities available.

Havre, Montana

Fort Assiniboine Historic Site

Located southwest of Havre on the grounds of the largest military fort west of the Mississippi when it was built in 1879. Guided tours only. Tours start at Heritage Center in Havre. Fee charged. 406 265 4000.

Havre Beneath the Streets

See the historical recreation of early Havre noting in particular the Great Northern Railroad and activities during the Prohibition period. Tours available. Fee charged. 406 265 8888.

H. Earl Clack Museum

The museum located at the Holiday Village Mall has exhibits, dioramas and collections of Havre's history and development. Open year round. Admission free.

Wahkpa Chu'gn Archeological Site

One of the largest and best preserved bison kill and campsites used by Plains Indians centuries ago. Take a 1 hour walking tour which provides an unequalled view of the area's pre-history. Located in Havre behind the Holiday Village Mall. Open year round. Tours available Sunday-Saturdays 10 am to 5 pm and evenings at 7 pm. Admission charged. 406 265 6417

Sites of Interest

Shep Memorial

Located on the historic waterfront levee in downtown Fort Benton in memory of a legendary faithful dog.

Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument

Established by Presidential Proclamation in Jan, 2001, the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument encompasses all of the Wild & Scenic Missouri River and approximately 377,000 acres. View the legendary White Cliffs section of the Missouri River described by Captain Lewis as "…scenes of visionary enchantment."

Ulm Pishkun Buffalo Jump State Park & Visitor Center

Believed to be one of the largest Buffalo Jumps in the US dating back centuries in use by Plains Indians. Take Hwy. 87 south then I-15 west from Great Falls 12 miles, turn off at Ulm and follow signs 4 miles to monument, picnic area and Visitor Center.

Virgelle

Located 27 miles north on Hwy. 87 eight miles off the highway northeast of Fort Benton. Virgelle is a restored homestead-era settlement and boasts one of three remaining ferry crossings on the Upper Missouri River. Nearby is Coal Banks Landing, a primary launch along the Wild & Scenic Missouri River. Virgelle offers outfitting, canoe rental and shuttle services.

Big Sandy Historical Museum

Located in the old Great Northern Railroad Depot 40 miles north on Hwy. 87. See the largest collection of early pioneer photographs in Chouteau County. No fee. 406 378 2492. Visit the old jailhouse and tourist center as well. Lonesome Lake west of town offers great wildlife viewing.

Blaine County Museum & Bear Paw Battlefield

The Bear Paw Battlefield is where Chief Joseph finally surrendered his fleeing Nez Perce tribe to Col. Nelson A. Miles saying; "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." The museum in Chinook serves as the interim NPS Visitor Center for the National Battlefield 16 miles south of Chinook on Route 240. Both open year round. No fee. For hours and tours call the Museum at 406 357 2590 and the Battlefield at 406 357 3160.

C.M. Russell Museum & Gallery

Experience the life, times and art of famed western artist Charlie Russell in the newly expanded museum. Enjoy the many illustrated letters he sent to friends, as well as his unparalleled artworks depicting the Old West. Russell's log cabin studio and home are also part of the Museum complex. Located in Great Falls. Open year round. Fee charged. 406 727 8787 [website]

Fort Belknap

Located adjacent to US Hwy. 2 Fort Belknap Indian Reservation is home to the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes. Guided tours to Snake Butte, Mission Canyon, Bear Gulch and St. Paul's Mission are available. Wildlife viewing includes the tribe's buffalo herd, deer, antelope, waterfowl and upland birds.

Geraldine & Square Butte

In Geraldine see the restored Milwaukee Depot which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. No fee. 406 737 4368. Nearby the Square Butte Natural Area offers wildlife and raptor viewing, camping, picnicking, hiking, and hunting. Located 26 miles south on Hwy. 80.

Lewis & Clark

Lewis & Clark Decision Point

Located at the confluence of the Marias and Missouri Rivers where the Expedition deliberated about which river to take as the true Missouri. Located one mile south of Loma, 11 miles north from Fort Benton on Hwy. 87 on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The Woods Watchable Wildlife Area also located nearby.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center

Located along the Missouri River at Giant Springs Heritage State Park in Great Falls. Exhibits detail the 1804 - 1806 Lewis & Clark Expedition and their encounters with the Plains Indians. Interpretive trails, demonstrations and outdoor living history area. Fee charged. Open year round. 406 727 8733.

Lewis & Clark State Memorial

This memorial stands watch over the historic waterfront levee in downtown Fort Benton where Lewis and Clark's party once traveled. Fort ruins, museums and historic buildings align a path and self guided walking tour.

 

info@grandunionhotel.com | www.grandunionhotel.com