Dillon Gives Visitors a Taste of the Wild West

This true Wild West town has a long history that enhances travel to Montana By: Kenneth Shapiro
Dillon gives visitors a taste of the Wild West // (c) 2009 Jimmy Wayne/Flickr.com
Dillon gives visitors a taste of the Wild West // (c) 2009 Jimmy Wayne/Flickr.com

The Details

Montana Official State Travel Site

For a true experience frontier experience, visitors should include a stop in Dillon, Montana.

Dillon’s link to history goes all the way back to Lewis and Clark, who traveled through the area on their quest for a way west. Lewis & Clark Trail sites near Dillon include Camp Fortunate and Clark’s Lookout. Camp Fortunate Overlook, one of the more significant spots along the Lewis and Clark Trail, was where the Lewis and Clark expedition met the Limhi Shoshoni Tribe and cached their canoes and a stash of supplies for the return trip. Clark’s Lookout, an outcropping above the Beaverhead River, provided the Lewis and Clark Expedition a view of the route ahead.

The area was also central to early Montana mining camps and settlements.

Bannack State Park, located a few miles southwest of Dillon, is a registered historic landmark and the site of Montana’s first major gold discovery on July 28, 1862. This strike set off a massive gold rush that swelled Bannack’s population to over 3,000 by 1863. Today, there are more than 50 buildings that line Main Street with their historic log and frame structures and recall Montana’s formative years.

Sheep were introduced to the rich agricultural valley in 1869. At one time Dillon was the largest wool-shipping point in Montana. The first cattle were brought to the valley in 1865 and they, too, have played a major role in Dillon’s development.

The seat of Beaverhead County, Montana’s largest county, the city of Dillon began as an important shipping point from Utah to the gold fields of Montana. The Utah and Northern Railroad reached Dillon in the fall of 1881, and the town was named for the president of the Utah and Northern Railroad, a branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, Sidney V. Dillon.

The Beaverhead County Museum in Dillon contains exhibits that include early mining and ranching exhibits, Indian artifacts and natural history. Dillon is also home to the University of Montana-Western, which was once Montana Normal College, established in Dillon in 1897 specifically to train teachers.

With mountain backdrops in all directions, Dillon is situated in a sweeping valley into which the Ruby, Big Hole and Beaverhead rivers drain. Beaverhead River, a blue-ribbon trout stream that’s a favorite for expert fly-fishermen, flows right through Dillon. Rockhounding and picnicking at Crystal Park is a unique recreation experience at an elevation of 7,800 feet in the Pioneer Mountains in southwest Montana. 

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