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Fort Benton's Historic Landmark District

7 Ideas For A Quick Day Trip To Fort Benton, Montana (2023)

The oldest continuously occupied settlement in Montana, Fort Benton is an exciting place. It was first explored in 1805 by Lewis and Clark and is also known as the ‘Birthplace of Montana’. The town of Fort Benton is steeped into the deep history and thus is recognized as a ‘National Historic Landmark’. Back in time, it played a very crucial role in the opening of the northwest and western Canada and as a head of navigation on the Missouri River. Besides that, surrounding the town is a mile of beautiful landscapes that add to the town’s scenic beauty.

The town of Fort Benton is said to be one of the prettiest North American towns. It though is small and has less population, but for tourism, its grandness knows no ends. Thousands of tourists plan their vacation here or mark it as a halt/road trip destination every year. Fort Benton makes up for a great place, even for someone who wants to shift into a small town with a suburban feel.

7 Ideas For A Quick Day Trip To Fort Benton

For knowing more about this quaint Montana town, read further. We have a list full of popular places and things to try in Fort Benton.

1. Begin With Fort Benton’s Historic Landmark District

Probably the best place to start, the Historic Landmark District in Fort Benton uncovers the history of the town in a pleasant manner. The district encompasses the historic waterfront areas and the Steamboat Levee Walk. It further follows the river curve from 7th Street to 18th Street. While walking here, you can find interpretive signs narrating interesting historical stories from the 1800s, when Fort Benton was the wildest gold rush town. The Historic landmark has several heritage buildings, including the Museum of Upper Missouri, the first firehouse, the original old fort, a replica keelboat, and several memorials. Historic Landmark District is open for the public from the end of May to the end of September from 10 am to 6 pm.

2. Take A Few Minutes and Stop At The Shep Memorial

The Shep Memorial is a small monument built for honoring the legendry dog ‘Shep’. Shep was a faithful dog to a Montana sheepherder. During the summer of 1936, when the owner fell ill, died, and was sent back to the east by train, Shep followed his owners’ casket out to the train depot. While his mastered body was carried away, the innocent dog stayed back at the railway station for the next five-and-a-half years. Every day without fail, the dog used to find his master in all the passengers who got down from the train. Several individuals even tried adopting him, but Shep didn’t show much interest in anyone. Though this one-man dog later got stuck and died by a train on January 12, 1942. A local troop of Boy Scouts buried him atop a hill overlooking the train depot.

Later the Great Northern Train Company initiated building his memorial at his final resting place. Today, visitors from Fort Benton and across stop here to admire this selfless love of Shep for his owner.

3. Visit the Missouri Breaks National Monument Interpretive Center

The Missouri Breaks National Monument Interpretive Center in Fort Benton highlights the cultural and natural history of the Upper Missouri River. Walking through the facility, you will find a lobby, a classroom, and several artifacts. Visitors can stop at the room to view Wild River and White Cliffs films. It even has a scale model of the entire 149-mile river corridor, which is quite interesting to watch. Or, by stopping in the lobby, visitors can learn about the boating information. The facility also houses life-size replica Murphy Freight Wagon, Chief Josephs’ surrender rifle, and learns about the boom of the steamboat era and the early fur traders. You require at least spending 4 to 5 hours here for seeing it all. The imperative center operates from Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.

4. Refresh and Rejuvenate at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is the oldest running Episcopal Church in Fort Benton, Montana. It was built back in 1881 in the Gothic architectural style. The church was established to serve the spiritual needs of the local community as prior to that; church services had been held in a local courthouse and an abandoned saloon. The church building you see today is a structure of soft bricks that is further adorned by stained glass windows and other prominent features. This Episcopal Church is a great place to visit during your day trip to Fort Benton, from spiritual interests to seeing something historical.

5. Visit the I.G. Baker Home

The I.G. Baker Home is an 1867 building and a former home to Issac Gilbert Baker in Fort Benton. Issac was the owner of the largest mercantile company in Montana back then. He built this home originally for his family, featuring two adorable rooms, four front windows, two doors) back & front, and a sod roof. The centre of the house has a huge double-faced fireplace that heated the entire house. Issac Gilbert Baker though started from scratch but later became the most powerful and influential trader. Today, his house is the oldest surviving residence in Fort Benton, which later became a part of the National Historic Register. Today travellers and history buffs visit here to observe the old-time house and its period furnishing. Though the structure doesn’t have anything extraordinary, it still is a great place in Fort Benton to visit once.

6. Step Inside the Historic Old Fort Benton

The Historic Old Fort Benton is a museum and a historic trading post. The museum is home to excellent exhibits focusing upon the Indians of the area, the Blackfoot tribe, and of course, the trading post. A walk inside the museum will introduce you to rooms filled with period furnishings, a carpenter’s shop, and a blacksmith shop. The things exhibited here include blankets, knives, cookware, buffalo robes, beads, trinkets, blankets, clothes, and other trading era goods. The facility is open to the public from the end of May through the end of September. The timing goes like 10:30 am to 4:30 pm from Monday through Saturday, whereas 12 pm to 4 pm on Sundays. A nominal admission fee as well is charged.

7. Spend the Night in the Grand Union Hotel

Grand Union is a history Montana hotel dating back to its establishment in 1882. Operating for 140 years now, it is the oldest operating hotel in Montana. Even today, the hotel continues to provide the finest lodging and dining experience in Fort Benton. The hotel has 26 suites and rooms, all exquisitely restored and with great outdoor views. Though the rooms are kept according to the latest comfort, you can still find some of the original pieces from 1882. Each room comes with usable amenities, including Wi-Fi, auto-wakeup, cable T.V., A.C. & heating, luxurious private bath, and more.

Their in-house restaurant serves delicious meat, seafood, vegetarian cuisine, and special homemade pasta for dining. They even have a separate drinking section that serves premium brews and wines from Montana craft breweries and wineries. The best part is Grand Union is centrally located and is reachable from almost all the popular city attractions.

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