U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
The fur trade era stimulated the first extensive use of the Missouri River as an avenue of transportation. Keelboats, mackinaws, bullboats and canoes plied the upper river bringing trade items and returning with a wealth of furs. The vast amounts of capital to be obtained encouraged steamboat captains to brave the treacherous Missouri. Steamboats arrived on the scene in 1859, and Fort Benton was established as the head of navigation in 1860. The steamboats arrived just in time to supply the gold camps in southwest Montana and northern Idaho. Before commercial steamboat traffic disappeared from the scene in 1891, supplies unloaded in Fort Benton were being freighted as far west as Fort Walla Walla in Washington and north to the Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories.
The railroad reached Fort Benton in 1887. The last commercial steamboat arrived there in 1890. By then the buffalo had disappeared from the plains to be replaced by livestock. Fort Benton changed from being a river port to an agricultural supply center. Homesteaders began arriving in large numbers around 1910.
|Last updated: 08-28-2013|
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