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Missouri Headwaters State Park

This State Park In Montana Is Where The Jefferson, Madison And Gallatin Rivers Merge To Form The Missouri River

Standing at an elevation of 4,045 feet the Missouri Headwaters State Park is where the Jefferson, Madison and Gallatin rivers merge to form the Missouri River.

The decision made by the Lewis and Clark Expedition not to call the Jefferson River as being part of the Missouri has led to many years of debate as to what is really the longest river in North America.

This state park in Montana also includes the National Historic Landmark of the Three Forks of The Missouri.

This confluence of rivers has long been a place of importance. Native American tribes such as the Shoshone, Flathead and Bannock all fought to control the region. Traders, trappers and settlers all found it a convenient point to meet and do business.

Famous Statue Depicting Sacajawea With Lewis And Clark.
In Kansas City, Missouri.

The area is linked to two notable figures in American folklore, both were involved with the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The first was the Native American woman Sacajawea who was captured by another Indian tribe in this area when she was aged just twelve.

She later returned with the expedition as the wife of a French Canadian fur trapper who was acting as an interpreter. Her short life has gone down in American history and she has been adopted as a symbol of women`s worth.

Several statues have been erected in her memory and in the year 2000 the United States Mint issued a one dollar coin in her honor.
(You can read about her life here.)

The second figure to gain fame was John Colter. Serving as a private with Lewis and Clark he is best remembered for explorations he made after their famous expedition. He became the first known person of European descent to enter what is now the Yellowstone National Park. He would spend months alone in the wilderness and was among the first of the breed that were to become known as "mountain men."

It was in 1809 that Colter went down in American folklore. Travelling with a companion, they encountered several hundred Blackfeet Indians. Colter was captured and stripped naked and his companion killed. After a council among the Indians, Colter was told in the Crow language to leave and was encouraged to run. It appeared as if he was to be running for his life. Given a short lead, he set off, and ran into American history! The story of his succesful escape can be read here.

Colter`s epic run started close to where the Missouri Headwaters State Park now stands and they hold the John Colter Run at the park to commemorate this famous American legend.

The Entrance Sign At Missouri Headwaters State Park

The park covers 532 acres of beautifully scenic land. The open plains seem to be surrounded in every direction by the tall mountains. It is a dramatic area.

Open all the year round the park a small fee for day use visitors and those wanting to camp. The facilities include a 23 site campground for both tents and RV`s. You can also rent a teepee which is a novel way to camp out. There are lots of picnic tables around the park with grills and fire rings and drinking water available.

The Gallatin River At Missouri Headwaters State Park

There are a number of signed trails within Missouri Headwaters State Park that take hikers to points of interest and which have interpretive displays about the cultural and natural history of the region.

The park comes under the control of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Here is their website if you are interested in this, or any of the other Montana State Parks.

For a downloadable map of the park itself, showing all the facilities and its position at the confluence of the three rivers click here.

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