September 12, 2010

Missoula to Bozeman, Montana

Today we did a fairly short leg of only 220 miles from Missoula to Bozeman, Montana. We decided that Bozeman would be a good place to stay since I have a ton of work to do Monday and that we needed a stable place to stay with some interesting attractions for Linda and Hilina that day.
Missoula of course is the home of the famous Glacial Lake Missoula. At the end of the Ice Age, a huge 100 mile lake that was 2000 feet deep formed as an ice lobe dammed the Clark Fork River. When that ice melted back, the lake drained away in a massive torrent that created the Channeled Scablands of Eastern Washington and filled the Columbia Gorge up to 700 feet deep, erosing massive headwalls that formed the great waterfalls on the Oregon side.

If you look carefully at this image and the one above, you can see faint horizontal lines that represent the former shorelines of the ancient lake.

Grant-Kohr Ranch House

There isn't much going on in Eastern Montana. But, Bozeman is the home of Montana State University (which means organic food stores to resupply) and more importantly the Museum of the Rocky Mountains on campus, which contains the largest collection of dinosaurs in the state. That museum should keep Hilina busy for a hours, while I call students and run my office hour sessions.

On the way from Missoula to Bozeman, we stopped at Grant-Kohr's Ranch National Historic Site. It is a working ranch owned and operated by the National Park Service to interpret the history of ranching in this part of the country.

They run everything in the style of the late 1800's, including horse drawn hay cutting, collecting, and baling. They also have cattle and chickens! No sheep that I could see though. The landscape is so harsh (10" of precipitation and temperatures routinely below zero in winter) that they can only grow one harvest of hay per year (compared to 4-8 in others places). Each cow requires 20-25 acres of land to graze.

There was a massive dieoff in the winter 1886 due to heavy overgrazing that led to the end of open range out west and the arrival of barb-wire fenced ranches. It also began the era of hay farming to supply these cattle winter feed.

Interesting rock formations along the way

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