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Gorgeous, rural river valleys in Montana

Gorgeous Montana River Valleys

Rural landscapes are found in all areas of Montana.  Quiet, solitude, remote, and beautiful are words to describe rural landscapes.  The variety of rural landscapes is endless: prairies stretch on forever; mountains, often sharp and rugged, tower high in the sky; and alpine meadows and lakes are common.

But most remarkable are the river valleys that are perhaps the most defining feature of many rural landscapes in Montana.  It’s in the river valleys that many wild animals live.  And in the river valleys man’s presence and culture are most evident.

Three river valleys in the western part of the state largely go unnoticed by travelers, being very remote and not traversed by major highways.  First of interest is the Boulder Valley with its magnificent Boulder River.  A major segment of Boulder Valley extends about 50 miles from the town of Boulder southeast to the small town of Cardwell.  Montana Highway 69 runs the length of the valley.  Flanked by low hills and mountains, the Boulder Valley is largely without human geography.  An occasional ranch can be seen along the highway.  More often the view is of large herds of angus and other cattle grazing on valley grasses.  In a few words, serenity, peace, and quiet are found here in abundance.

Above: St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church near Boulder, Montana. The setting of this catholic church is in a very rural area, with no other signs of civilization close by, except perhaps for the church cemetery which is a burial place for early-day Montana pioneers.

Further to the northwest is another beautiful, isolated rural Montana valley.  This is the Nevada Creek Valley, a stretch of land crossed by Montana State Highway 141 running roughly between Avon and Ovando.   Mainly locals travel this route.  Like the Boulder Valley, Nevada Creek Valley is a place of solitude and quiet.  A few ranches are visible from the highway.  Huge herds of cattle graze on the grasses in the valley.  Nevada Creek Valley has the appearance of an alpine valley.  At mid-point along route 141, the elevation is 4,615 feet at Nevada Lake.  The Garnet Range of mountains borders Nevada Creek Valley.

The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River Valley which runs south from Belfry and into Wyoming is the most spectacular of all.   This route is along Montana State Highway 72 which turns into Wyoming State Highway 120 when traveling south from Belfry on the way to Cody.  Over some 43 miles, the highway runs through a desert-like, sage environment while the valley and its river are at a lower elevation on the west side of the highway.  The Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone flows north towards its rendezvous with the mighty Yellowstone.  Most remarkably, travelers on this route can almost reach out and touch the Beartooth Mountains, towering over 10,000 feet on the west side of the valley.  The highway, the valley, the river, and the mountains are all in very close proximity.  So beautiful.

Travelers in Montana should remember that other rural valleys are likely to inspire as well.  Just search them out and enjoy.

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