Beaverhead County Montana is huge–in its area it is bigger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and is roughly the size of Connecticut. Within these vast boundaries in the southwest corner of Montana, less than 10,000 people live, as counted in the 2010 census. As this blog has previously documented, in a land of such vastness, transportation means a lot–and federal highways and the railroad are crucial corridors to understand the settlement history of Beaverhead County.
This post takes another look at the roads less traveled in Beaverhead County, such as Blacktail Creek Road in the county’s southern end. The road leads back into lakes and spectacular scenery framed by the Rocky Mountains.
But along the road you find historic buildings left behind as remnants of ranches now lost, or combined into even larger spreads in the hopes of making it all pay some day.
Birch Creek Road as it winds in and out of Beaverhead National Forest is more populated with the remnants of the past since it is nestled within the mountains where there was always the promise of mineral riches.
Birch Creek Road was shaped by the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s as the Corps carried out multiple projects in the national forest. This road has a logical destination–the historic Birch Creek C.C.C. Camp, which has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The University of Montana Western uses the property for outdoor education and as a conference center that is certainly away from everything.
There is another historic destination waiting for the intrepid traveler willing to take Canyon Creek Road in the northern end of the county. Although at places harrowing for this easterner, the road is among my favorite in Big Sky Country–for the views, the sense of isolation, and the history found along its route.
The destination is the spectacular collection of Canyon Creek Kilns, previously discussed in the blog, which fed the smelter and mining operations at Glendale. The kilns are worth the time and perhaps worry it takes to drive along Canyon Creek Road.