• A Fort Benton resident watches the sunset from the walking bridge over the frozen Missouri River. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    F is for… a lot of Montana cities

    In its continuing series exploring the ABCs of all Montana’s towns, the Missoulian is telling some pretty great stories.

    Last week’s installment featured all the Fs – and there are a lot. We challenge you to name them all…. 

    Along with a slideshow with images from all the F towns, reporter Kim Briggeman and photographer Kurt Wilson visited Fort Benton.

    What a cool place. 

    Fort Benton calls itself the “Birthplace of Montana” and its recorded history goes back to the 1840s, further than any other town in Montana except, depending on who’s arguing, Stevensville.

    It’s a history fashioned by the river as the highest navigable point on the Missouri and furthered first by the fur trade, then the steamboats and gold boom that jump-started Montana. The homestead era followed, and Fort Benton established itself and remains a farming town in Montana’s most fertile wheat-producing area.

    A obelisk and a painted steel cutout of Shep, arguably the most famous dog in Montana, stands on a bluff above the railroad station where the faithful dog held vigil for the return of his long-dead master for 5 1/2 years. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    A obelisk and a painted steel cutout of Shep, arguably the most famous dog in Montana, stands on a bluff above the railroad station where the faithful dog held vigil for the return of his long-dead master for 5 1/2 years. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    It was also home to Shep. 

    He was a mangy dog that started hanging around the train station below this same bluff in 1936. It took a few years for someone to figure out why – Shep’s sheepherding master left the station in a casket.

    The dog’s vigil for the next 5 1/2 years made headlines and caught the attention of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” The story became downright heartbreaking when, on a cold January morning like this in 1942, an aging Shep didn’t hear old 235 roll into the station. The nation tuned in for, and old-timers still remember, the massive funeral. For the past 20 years, a Bob Scriver bronze has memorialized Shep on the bank of the river.

    See more of the Missoulian’s series here.

    Read more about Montana all year long by subscribing today.


    • big buck

      A big buck stays close to town during hunting season.

    • glendive lights

      Street lights in downtown Glendive.

    • hi-line exploring

      Exploring a family homestead near Turner.

    • hogeland

      The American Lutheran Church in Hogeland.

    • hungry horse

      Hungry Horse's mascot.

    • lookout tower

      The Seeley Lake Lookout Tower.

    • swan lake

      The Swan Mountains bathed in alpine glow.

    • two headed  cow

      A two-headed calf on display in the Yellowstone County Museum.

    • zortman

      Somewhere between Malta and Zortman.

    Instagramming all over the state

    In our never-ending quest to explore every nook and cranny of the great state of Montana, we’ve been having fun growing a diverse Instgram portfolio – and it’s been a lot of fun.

    Take a look at this sampling of images above you’ll find on our Instagram page – where we’ve explored everywhere from Zortman to Swan Lake.

    Follow us, @montanamagazine.com, for more images, links and subscription specials. Do you have awesome pictures of Montana you’d like to share? Send us photos that we can post to editor@montanamagazine.com.

    Want even more Montana? Subscribe today to see some of the best photography the state has to offer.




  • oil spill

    Video: A Montana photographer’s aerial office

    Have you seen our most recent photo Porfolio, The Beauty Above?

    We were lucky enough to feature the aerial photography work of Larry Mayer in the Jan/Feb issue. And recently, Larry shared a video of his aerial “office” that he works in as he gather his shots. 

    YouTube Preview ImageHe was recently in Glendive to document an oil spill that contaminated the Yellowstone River and the city’s drinking water.

    Pretty cool!


  • Photo Kurt Wilson

    Many Glacier’s winter keepers fight weather, find solace

    Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park is a lonely place during the winter.

    Besides a few hearty animals – wolves, sheep and birds among them – the most abundant thing is snow.

    But the historic hotel isn’t completely abandoned, as Missoulian reporter Rob Chaney found in his story “Winter Keepers,” a beautiful tale about the couple the lives at Many Glacier through the harsh winter months.

    Photo by Kurt Wilson

    Photo by Kurt Wilson

    Six months ago, David and Rebecca Wilson would have been on the wait list to get a room at Many Glacier Hotel.

    Today when they show up, gray jays and bighorn sheep come out to greet them. The black bear under the employee dormitory doesn’t bother to wake. They still struggle to get in, but now it’s snowdrifts and 70 mph winds blocking the way instead of throngs of tourists.

    But, as Chaney explains, the job isn’t as lonely these days, as the Wilson’s blog about the job,  mghwinterkeeper.com, is getting plenty of online traffic.

    “We just did it for fun, to see if people noticed,” David Wilson said of the mghwinterkeeper.com blog the couple have maintained since October. “I had no idea so many people would find it, just by word of mouth. On a good day, we get 500 hits on the blog. People are always interested in what the weather’s doing up here.”

    Want to see for yourself? Check out a gallery of wintry images from Many Glacier.

    Need even more stories about Montana? Subscribe to Montana Magazine today – just $60 for three years.


  • Ed Osse works in his shop in Ryegate. Photo by Kelsey Dayton

    World famous woodpeckers hide in Ryegate trees

    Have you ever spotted the woodpeckers – with bright red heads and black spotted bodies – hiding in the cottonwoods trees outside Ryegate on U.S. Highway 12?

    In our January/February issue, we found out the history behind the birds and introduced our readers to the family that maintains the unlikely tradition.

    A sign leading to the Osse family’s the driveway reads “Woodpeckers for Sale” and the shop that makes the wooden birds has turned out more than 12,000 since two friends began making them in the late 1970s.

    Today, the woodpeckers that line the road between Ryegate and Harlowton are legendary. A way for kids to pass the time during the 30-mile trip between towns.

    Writer and photographer Kelsey Dayton grew up counting the birds on long drives to see her family in the area.

    She visited the shop where the birds are made, now by Ed Osse, of Ryegate, who took over the tradition from his father Earl, and their friend Jerry Gantz.

    The pair originally thought of crafting a pterodactyl or perhaps a buzzard, but they couldn’t find anyone to draw those patterns. No one remembers who volunteered the woodpecker design, but it’s been the pattern used ever since, Osse said.

    They put up 30 woodpeckers that first year, one for each mile between the two towns.

    Soon, people were asking where they could buy a bird, and they were making a few hundred each year.

    Osse, who worked in fiber optics and telecommunications across the country, had no idea about his dad’s new hobby until he arrived home for a visit to a garage full of woodpeckers.

    Osse returned home for good in 2003 when his mother died. By then Gantz had stepped away from making woodpeckers. Osse started helping his dad in the garage, following the same simple process he uses today: Tracing the birds, cutting the plywood, sanding it smooth, priming it and then adding the paint: A red head, white spotted body and black tail.

    Read the rest of the story here.

    Like what you’ve just read? We’ve got lots more where that came from. Subscribe today and get one year free with our 3 years for $60 offer.


  • VFW in Circle. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    No Starbucks? Not a problem in Circle, MT

    There’s no Starbucks in Circle. Actually, according to one “study” released last week, Circle is the town that’s geographically furthest away from a Starbucks – and there are a lot of Starbucks out there.

    That’s according to Quartz, an online news site that broke down Starbuck’s “world domination” and figured that Circle won the distinction as the town so far away from Starbucks.

    Not such a bad thing, right?

    Circle, Montana. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    Circle, Montana. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    Because there’s a lot of other – more distinctive – things that Circle can claim. The Missoulian and photographer Kurt Wilson explored the town in it’s Roadside Wanderings series in 2014.

    Here’s a little bit of what they found.


  • "Lake McDonald" by John Fery. Courtesy of Glacier National Park

    Gift helps preserve Glacier of the past

    We highlighted some good news for Yellowstone earlier this week, and now it’s time to share some good news from Glacier.

    The park was given 21 historic paintings from the early 20th century from its former concessionaire, a goodwill move that will keep the paintings in their original homes.

    As Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin tells us, Glacier Park Inc. donated the paintings to the park last week, even after losing its concessionaire contract for the park to Zanterra.

    "Man on Horseback" by R.H. Palenske. Courtesy of Glacier National Park

    “Man on Horseback” by R.H. Palenske. Courtesy of Glacier National Park

    All the paintings originated between 1909 and 1915, and were either originally owned or commissioned by the Great Northern Railway. All depict scenes in and around Glacier.

    The railroad, anxious to lure tourists to travel on its passenger trains, was instrumental in getting Glacier Park established in 1910. It built Many Glacier Hotel in 1915, and in 1930 acquired Lake McDonald Lodge, two of the properties where the paintings are located.

    They include pieces by John Frey, Frank Stick, R.H. Palenske, Charles Defeo and an artist with the last name Richmond, about whom little is known. Some of the donated work is by unknown artists.

    The only stipulation to the donation was the paintings remain in the properties for which they were created, Devlin wrote.


  • A Yurtski yurt in the Swan Mountains. Courtesy of Yurtski

    Yurts help skiers access private powder

    It’s one thing to head up to the ski hill to find some Montana snow – but more and more these days the skiers are heading to the backcountry to what writer and photographer Aaron Theisen calls the Holy Grail of winter sports: A mountain all to themselves.

    Theisen’s story, Riding the White Swan, introduces readers to a company that’s using ancient structures to help backcountry skiers stay in remote places like the Swan Mountains, where crowds are never a problem.

    Courtesy of Yurtski

    Courtesy of Yurtski

    Yurtski has two yurts that it rents each winter to skiers looking for private powder.

    Every December, Missoula’s Carl Sievers and Adam Simon coordinate a barn-raising of sorts. Except that the buildings perch at nearly 7,000 feet on a steep, snow-clad peak in the Swan Mountain Range.

    And the structures will house skiers, not swine.

    Read the preview story here; find the full story in this month’s issue.

    But what exactly is a yurt? 

    According to Missoula-based yurt manufacturer Shelter Designs, yurt consists of a round wall and roof system that is free standing using a tension ring at the wall and a compression ring where the roof rafters tie together. These versatile structures have been around for at least 2,500 years. Traditionally, yurts were used in central Asia by nomadic herding groups and tribes. Recently, the yurt (or “ger” as it is traditionally called) has been imported to North America and Europe. Modern design changes, such as using steel fasteners and architectural fabric coverings, have been incorporated. Three types of yurts are predominant in the world today. The fabric yurt is a portable, fabric covered yurt based on the Mongonlian ger. A frame-panel yurt is a permanent structure built of wood with a yurt-style roof. Lastly is the traditionally ger from central Asia.

    Learn more at Shelter Designs’ site.


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