Photo courtesy: MTOT
The three forks of the Missouri River were discovered by Lewis and Clark in 1805, located at the historically significant site where the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson rivers converge to form the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark were unable to decide which river was the Missouri, so they named the three rivers. The first fork was named for Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury; the second for James Madison, Secretary of State, and the third for Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States.
Before Lewis and Clark ventured into the area it was used frequently for travel and a site of battles between the Crow and the Blackfeet. It soon became a trading post between the whites and the Crow.
One of the main attractions in this area is the Headwaters Heritage Museum, constructed in 1910. It was originally housed in one of the first banks in Three Forks. In 1925, it was damaged by an earthquake and later was restored to its original design. Displays include replicas of a turn-of-the-century village and thousands of historical artifacts, such as a small anvil salvaged from the ruins of an 1810 Missouri Fur Company trading post.
Visit Montana's first state park, Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, located 17 miles west of Three Forks. It features one of the most highly decorated limestone caverns in the Northwest. Filled with an endless variety of beautiful, colored formations, these spectacular caverns are electrically lighted and safe to visit. Guided tours take about two hours, including time for a leisurely walk along the paved trail leading from the visitor center to the entrance. The entrance trail is 3/4 mile long with a 300-foot rise. Visitors are also required to walk another 3/4 mile inside the caverns, including 500 stairs down and 100 stairs up, plus 1/2 mile back to the visitor center. The Paradise Tour provides an easier option for senior citizens and those with limited time.
The Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is located off I-90 near Three Forks. This buffalo jump vividly demonstrates a hunting technique used in Montana 2,000 years ago. Interpretive displays explain how bison were stampeded over the cliffs.
Missouri Headwaters State Park has historical exhibits, interpretive signs, scenic viewpoints, picnic areas and hiking trails.
Agriculture, tourism, and the manufacturing of talc and cement are the main industries in this area.
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