National Historic Landmark District & Steamboat Levee Walk

Fort Benton
      The Birthplace of MontanaTM

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The levee at Fort Benton saw its first visitor when Captain Meriwether Lewis, beating a hasty retreat from the Blackfeet, boarded his canoe here and hurried down river.  

During the early years of the fort the levee was a quiet place.  A few keel boats were tied up, canoes and bullboats rested on the bank and mackinaws were under construction for the 2600 mile, one-way trip, with buffalo robes, to St. Louis.

Old Fort Benton

Fort Benton Levee

That all changed overnight with the arrival of the first steamboat in 1860 and discovery of gold in 1862.  Buildings sprang up on the levee for over a mile upriver from the fort.  Fort Benton became the world's innermost port...and the toughest town in the West.  With the civil war over and the glint of gold in most people's eyes.  Southerner and Yankee alike headed upriver to strike it rich.  For ten years people from all walks of live came and went across the Fort Benton levee.  There was little or no law on the upper river except for vigilante justice.

With the arrival of the Northwest Mounted Police north of the border in 1874, Fort Benton took on an air of respectability.  The Golden Years of the 1880's brought brick buildings, prosperity, families, law and order.  Large numbers of steamboats continued to dock until the railroad arrived, when it all ended as rapidly as it had begun.  The levee returned to a more peaceful time and those wild days of the past can only be relived in your imagination.

Freight Train

as you walk along the steamboat levee and the historic district and read the many interpretive signs that help to bring the wild times alive once more and you will soon understand why Forbes named Fort Benton as one of the fifteen "prettiest towns in America" and National Geographic Traveler recommends visiting Fort Benton.

Tour the Historic District and Steamboat Levee


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