A Visit to Southeast Montana Offers Dinosaur Bones, Fishing, and River Cruises – Chattanooga Times Free Press | Gmx Pharm

Jurassic Park has nothing about what lies underground in the badlands of Montana. Dinosaur bones and nearly complete skeletons have been found throughout southeastern Montana. They were buried underground and exposed on sandstone cliffs eroded by millions of years of rain, snow and ice.

Streams of water washed in from the Rocky Mountains 65 million years ago cut through the badlands over several millennia, causing erosion and leaving behind fossils, explained Anthony Gordon, a paleo intern at Makoshika State Park.

Makoshika, Montana’s largest state park at over 11,000 acres, is one of 14 locations along the Montana Dinosaur Trail (mtdinotrail.org) where dinosaur enthusiasts can see dinosaur bones and other fossils unearthed around the park in Glendive. The museum at the park’s visitor center has the head of a triceratops found just outside the park boundary.

“Dinosaur tours are a big deal here and bring big revenue to eastern Montana,” said park manager Riley Bell. “It brings families out in that way and it’s a great thing for kids. We have many hidden treasures out here.”

(READ MORE: 76-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton to be auctioned in New York City)

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Destination: Find dinosaur bones, fishing, river cruises when visiting southeast Montana

The less-travelled roads through Southeast Montana are filled with breathtaking sights that often go unnoticed by tourists bound for the state’s better-known attractions — including Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

“The Southeast has always been a hidden gem for Montana,” said Nicole Gonzalez, media manager for the Montana Office of Tourism. “And it’s getting more attention, which is amazing for local communities.”

The park, which also offers miles of hiking trails, RV hookups, and rustic camping, was a highlight of my recent trip to Montana. Here are some other key takeaways from my visit to Big Sky Country.

(READ MORE: Exploring the Burger Trail through Southeast Montana)

A WANTED STORY

Montana is a huge state with a small population. So if you get off the main roads and drive down dirt roads, you’ll feel slightly isolated, and chances are you’ll come across at least one abandoned, spooky-looking building or house. However, if you spend the night in the small town of Terry, you might encounter a ghostly presence at The Kempton Hotel, Montana’s oldest continuously operating hotel. Owner Russ Schwartz said four ghosts roam the old rooms and hallways.

“I found out who the ghosts are,” Schwartz said, counting them off on one hand.

Two are children who died of typhus at the hotel; one is a nurse who came to town to help with the typhoid epidemic and became a victim of the virus herself; and the fourth, Bernie Kempton, was the son of the man who built the hotel in 1902.

Book a room on kemptonhotel.net if you dare.

(READ MORE: Read House historian says ghost in room 311 picks up a lot of oxygen for a ghost)

FUN ON THE WATER

The Bighorn River is one of the best trout fishing rivers in America. The river flows through a spectacular gorge and, unless you are a member of the Crow Nation whose land borders its banks, you can only see it from the water. A cruise takes you past beautiful cliffs streaked brick red by the oxidized iron minerals in the sandstone and some of the most spectacular rock formations you will ever see.

Katie Steele and her husband Tyler own Shade Tree Outfitters (bighornproguide.com) and specialize in water fun on the Bighorn – fishing, boating, picnicking. You name it, they can probably arrange it, Katie said.

“I love sharing the beauty of this river with other people,” she said as she piloted her 18-foot smokercraft downstream.

If you’re not quite ready for the big leagues of fishing, you might find a stop at Big Horn Valley Ranch (bighornvalleyranch.com), one of just a handful of Fort Smith resorts on the Crow Reservation. It’s also one of the few places in the area that has full-service restaurants. The resort has cabins with WiFi and small kitchens. Private baths are offered in a central bathhouse.

At the center of the resort is a large stocked pond where you can wet a line and get a few tips from outfitter Paul Garrison. He’ll bring the gear if you don’t have your own and with his help you might just be able to catch up with the big one.

RIDING ON THE TRACK

From saddles to fancy ladies’ hats, Miles City’s Range Riders Museum (rangeridersmuseum.com) is an all-encompassing walk-through history of the West. Founded in 1939, the museum features a collection accumulated over more than 70 years and now includes more than 38,000 square feet of unexpected finds under one roof.

The exhibits cover everything from the age of dinosaurs to the history of the Native Americans who first inhabited the area and the soldiers and pioneers who followed. It’s a remarkable look at the people and things that became Montana.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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