Missouri Breaks Historical Homesteads Auto Tour


Homesteading in Central Montana 

The homestead boom in the United States truly began with the first Homestead Act in 1862, but it was the Enlarged Homestead Act of 1909 that greatly accelerated the settlement of Montana. This act expanded the amount of land permitted by the Homestead Act of 1862 from 160 acres to 320 acres. When the latter act was signed by President Taft, it reduced the time required to prove up from

five years to three years; it also permitted six months’ absence from the claim each year.

Inspired by the Enlarged Homestead Act and the propaganda spread by the railroads, thousands of homesteaders poured into central Montana between 1903 and 1918. Many came in covered wagons, bumping over the rough trails, in search of a productive piece of land on which to stake their claim.

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Know Before You Go!

Since these sites are located in the remote area of northeastern Fergus County, there are a few preparations and precautions that need your attention:

  • You’ll need an automobile with semi-high clearance (e.g., SUV, jeep or pickup) in good mechanical condition which has a large capacity fuel tank.
  • The tour takes a minimum of four hours to drive.  Inform a reliable person of your travel plans and what to do if you fail to return at a given time.
  • Pack extra food, LOTS of drinking water and additional gear just in case.
  • Check the weather forecast and choose a nice, DRY day.  Call C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge’s Sand Creek Station located near the beginning of the tour route (406-464-5181) to confirm that the road surfaces are dry before departing.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO TAKE THE TOUR IF THE ROADS ARE WET; the soil turns into gumbo making the two-track roads impassable.
  • Stay on the designated tour route; off-road travel is prohibited.
  • The roads are narrow with some blind curves and hills.  Yield the right-of-way to livestock, wildlife and uphill traffic.  Stay alert and drive defensively.
  • Keep an eye out for rattlesnakes and cactus when you’re exploring the sites.