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  • Central Montana
Established in 1846, Fort Benton is known as the birthplace of Montana. An American Fur Company trading post at first, it became the hub for trade and travel throughout the northwestern United States and Canada. Fort Benton was one of the most important early trading posts because it was built at the head of navigation on the Missouri River. Steamboats brought supplies up the river this far, but because of rapids could go no further. All cargo had to be unloaded here and taken by freightwagons to the gold camps in Helena and Virginia City and other places in western Montana. This post was the point of debarkation for thousands of tenderfeet anxious to reach the gold fields. Fort Benton's hotels, with their high ceilings, plush furniture, and glittering chandeliers were the last word in fashion in the 1870s and '80s. (from Cheney's Names on the Face of Montana, Mountain Press Publishing Company) Today, Fort Benton is recognized as a National Historic Landmark, because of the importance it played as the head of navigation on the Missouri River and the opening of the northwest and western Canada. Walk along the steamboat levee and the part of the town once known as the bloodiest block in the West. View the ruins of Historic Fort Benton, which is currently under archaeological study and in the process of being reconstructed. Explore the Museum of the Upper Missouri and the Museum of the Great Northern Plains. Fort Benton is also the gateway for exploration of the Upper Missouri Wild and Scenic River . Fort Benton is part of the Old Forts Trail, an international heritage tourism trail connecting 7 historic forts in Montana, Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. The Old Forts Trail highlights a historic travel route and facilities that were vital economic and military resources during the development of the Canadian and American West more than a century ago. You'll find information on the Old Forts Trail's interpretive centers, museums and its contemporary travel route at
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