Blackfoot River Chapter,         Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
We are a chapter of the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation specializing in the "River of the Road to the Buffalo" portion of the Corps of Discovery's return leg of the trip in western Montana.

We help the Foundation as "Keepers of the Story, Stewards of the Trail."

Our local Chapter specializes in the "River of the Road to the Buffalo" portion of the return leg of the trip in western Montana. We encourage local interest in following the tracks of Lewis and Clark, and similar cultural trails and events.

As stewards of the trail the Chapter monitors the condition and alerts the National Foundation to situations affecting trail-related sites or facilities in the Blackfoot River corridor.

With the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery approaching, members of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation and its local chapters will be local contacts for that event. .

The ancient Indian trail through the Blackfoot Valley had been used for about two thousand years to and from the buffalo hunting grounds east of the Continental Divide. Captain Lewis followed it on his return trip to the United States. It is now a 130 mile segment of the 3700 mile Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Much has changed in 200 years, but today's travelers can see what Lewis saw in several areas.

Meriwether Lewis is notorious for misspelling words in his journals. In this regard he did not discriminate between languages -- he also did not spell several Indian words correctly. One example is Cokahlarishkit (and he spelled this a couple different ways). His Nez Perce guides sent him on a route they called Ooq' aalx'Iskit which means Road to the Buffalo. Lewis translated the word as Cokahlahishkit.

Available now:
"Journey Through the Blackfoot -- Lewis' Return Trail
A Montana guide to:
* Meriwether Lewis' return trip east
* The Road to the Buffalo
* Local history and wildlife"

This booklet is a self-guided, driving tour through the valley, highlighting 30 sites accessible to the public. Available for $2.00 (includes P&H)

Available Now:

A two-inch collectors pin in the shape of a buffalo with an original artist drawing representing sights of 5 July, 1806. That Saturday Lewis noted "hills low and timbered with long leafed pine .... saw two swan in this beautiful Creek...passing through an extensive and handsome the heads of these two creeks high broken mountains ... forming a kind of Cove generally of open untimbered country." Pins are available for $7.95 each, P&H included.

Upcoming "Keepers of the Story" Events

The schedule of events is still being formulated. If you have ideas or preferences, please contact us.

July 3, 2005. "Lunch With Lewis"
11:00 AM - 3:00 PM
Where: Monture FAS, near Ovando, MT. Hiway 200, MP 40.
--Enjoy the commemoration of Meriwether Lewis' passage through this spot on July 5, 1806, where he stopped to camp on his return trip to the United States. Noted reenactor Scott Mandrell is Capt. Lewis. 
--See where the Cokalahiskit Trail passed through the valley -- even walk a bit of it yourself
--Come for the barbeque! Eat buffalo along the ancient Indian trail called the ÒRoad To The Buffalo.
--Walking tours will highlight the varied history of the region, which played a role not only in the Lewis and Clark Expedition but in Norman McClean's "A River Runs Through It", The Great Flood, ancient Indian culture and pioneer homesteading. (Self guided tours continuously).
--A raffle of Montana-made products will also be held.

This location is undeveloped but beautiful, situated in the Blackfoot Valley along Monture Creek near a meadow rich with wildflowers. Bring your beach blankets and folding chairs and enjoy a wonderful Saturday in the valley.

A donation of $15 per person ($10 kids under 13), will be requested at the site to help the Blackfoot Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation fund the program.

Relive A Historic Occasion on a Historic Spot. In July 1806, Meriwether Lewis and his Corps of Discovery stopped to camp on their return trip to St. Louis. From his journal: 'passing through an extensive high prarie rendered very eneven by a vast number of little hillucks and sinkholes. at the heads of these two creeks high broken mountains stand at the distance of 10 miles forming a kind of Cove generally of open untimbered country.' On July 3, 199 years later, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy the view that he did, have a cookout, and learn a little about the Corps' travels through this part of Montana. We won't be serving quamash and freshly shot antelope like his group dined on that day, but you'll be able to munch on buffalo and hot dogs with all the fixings plus soft drinks. 
Learn the history of the area, not just as it relates to Lewis and Clark, but also how it was impacted by ancient Glacial Lake Missoula, and its important role as a historic route of travel for many northwestern native American tribes. Evidence of old homesteads and Big Blackfoot railroad is evident. 

The event takes place at the Monture Fishing Access Site near Ovando, along State Highway 200. The Blackfoot River is nearby, it's a wonderful spot to relax, absorb the beautiful surroundings, and learn about history in our own backyard. This is a minimally developed site with picnic tables and toilet. The site is in a riparian area along Monture Creek. The guided hike will be in the adjacent area called ÒPrarie of KnobsÓ by Capt. Lewis. So bring your family, your lawn chairs, a camera, your walking shoes, and your appetites. 

For driving instructions to find the site click on and enter "Monture Hill, MT" as the destination.

For more information contact: Marilyn Peterson at 406-754-3340, email

After an absence of nearly 200 years Captain Meriwether Lewis, first explorer of this territory, returns to the Blackfoot Valley. Lewis, with Captain William Clark and 31 others, explored the Missouri River, crossed the Bitterroot Mountains, and to the Pacific Ocean, returning to St. Louis in 1806 after a 28 month journey. Lewis and Clark separated at Travelers Rest, with Captain Lewis choosing the Blackfoot Valley as his return route. 

See what Lewis saw. 

P.S. Please come, and give this invitation to your friends (whether or not you are able to attend).

August 15-21.  Art Exhibit by Phil Yost.
The Chapter will host a traveling art exhibit in the Seeley Lake Historcal Museam and Visitor Center Hayloft. The exhibit will feature watercolor paintings of the Lewis and Clark Expedition depicting what the artist viewed on a recent trip.

Mr. Yost grew up in the Appalachians of central Pennsylvania. Early western explorers and American Indian lore were early interests. In sixth grade he even put on a Lewis and Clark Expedition puppet show for his classmates. Yost received a Master of Forestry degree from Duke in 1966, spent several summers working in the Flathead National Forest while attending college. After college he became a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years in Paraguay. He then went back to college and became certified to teach high school science in New Mexico. Than became his job for 3 years until his retirement in 2000.

He has always like to draw and occasionally do an oil painting, but in 1996 he started doing watercolors and it now occupies the vast majority of his time. Almost all his paintings are realistic detail in transparent watercolors. He expects to become a New Mexico Watercolor signature artist this summer.

Stay tuned. The National Park Service will have their Corps of Discovery II traveling exhibition in Lincoln June 30-July 2, 2006.

Pending. The director of the Travelers Rest Preservation Society has offered to give us a special tour of the Travelers Rest site if enough of us are interested. Also, could visit the Holt Museam of Western History. If you are interested, please give us an email. Also, we now have a 12 passenger van, available to us for local tours. If you would like to tour the L&C sites in the Blackfoot Valley, please respond.

You missed it. We've had several great outings and events during the last couple years.

June 3, 2005. Botanical Walk thru the Prarie of Knobs. 
Wayne Phillips, author of "Plants of the Lewis and Clark Expedition," will lead a walk through one of the most pristine areas along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Contact us for more information.

When: Friday, June 3, 2005. 1:00 pm
Where: Meet at Brown's Lake Campground for site visit
#1. West of Ovando MT on Highway 200. Turn at Milepost
53, three miles south to Browns lake on a good, but
slow, gravel road. Site visit #2 (about 3:00 pm) will
be off the Monture Creek Road. Meet at the gate/cattle
guard entering State Lands, 1.7 miles north of Ovando
at approximately 3:00 p.m.

Who is Wayne Phillips? Wayne is the author of "Plants
of the Lewis and Clark Expedition," "Northern Rocky
Mountain Wildflowers" and "Central Rocky Mountain
Wildflowers."  He worked as an ecologist and forester
for the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and now teaches field
classes for the Yellowstone and Glacier Institutes. He
is active in the Montana Native Plant Society. In 1961
Wayne was introduced to the plants of the Lewis and
Clark Expedition while working for the Forest Service
in Idaho.  A native of Texas, Phillips now lives in
Great Falls Montana.

What is the "Prarie of Knobs?" In early July 1806
Capt. Meriwether Lewis, with nine men, 17 horses and a
dog traveled through the Blackfoot Valley on his
return trip to the United States from the Pacific
Ocean. One of his impressions of the beautiful valley
was an area between Sperry Grade and Browns Lake which
he called "Prarie of Knobs" because of the many
"little hillucks and sinkholes."

What is special about the plants? During the Corps of
Discovery Expedition, Lewis and Clark collected 211
species of plants, most of them new to science. They
arrived back in St. Louis with 28 species from
Montana, a dozen of which were collected by Capt Lewis
as he traveled through the Blackfoot Valley over what
the Native Americans called 'The Road to the Buffalo."
A few years ago a university study found the only
places in North America where any substantial sections
of untouched prairie grasslands remained were in five
secluded valleys in the northern Rockies.  One of
those is the Blackfoot Valley. 

Site #1. Across the road south of Brown's Lake looking
at prairie grassland plants, kames and kettles. Site
@2. Along Dick Creek. Forest plants in a unique area
where Ponderosa Pine, Douglas-fir and Spruce valley
bottom forest stands are located all within a quarter
mile.  NOTE: Please R.S.V.P. if you intend only to
attend the Site #2 visit so we'll be sure to expect
you; otherwise we may tarry too long at Site #1.

Terrain at both sites will be gentle terrain, but
other than a few game trails, cross country travel
through low vegetation.

June 9, 2005.  Walk Were Lewis Rode. National Trails Day event.Free history and exercise program. 2:00 p.m., meet at Clearwater Crossing Campground; near junction of State Highways 200 and 83. Everyone welcome.

More info:
A discussion about the history of the COKAHLARISHKIT
-- "River of the Road to the Buffalo" section of the
Lewis and Clark National
Historic Trail beginning at 2:00 p.m..

At 2:30 p.m. Walk in the ruts of a section of the
ancient Indian trail very likely rode by Captain Lewis
and his troops. The trees are too young to have been
watered by Seaman, but some are growing in the middle
of the trail.

At 3:00 PM, hike another section of the trail between
Clearwater Junction and Sperry Grade. Love thine
enemy -- the litterbugs. Be thankful for smokers,
drinkers and general litterers. And babies.
Coincidentally, this section of Hiway 200 is the
Chapter's "Adapt-A-Hiway" so we'll pick up litter
along the way from MP 32 to 34. Free garbage bags and
safety vests will be provided. Bring your own gloves.
Latecomers welcome.

Information will be provided about other places to
visit where visible ruts of the ancient Indian trail
may be seen.

For other National Trails Day events go to
and click on Montana.

February 11, 2005. Birthday party for Pomp
Where: Seeley Lake Museum & Visitor Center Hayloft
What: Everyone had a great time at a birthday party for Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, son of Sacagawea and Toussaint Charbonneau. Most of you know him by his nickname of "Pomp" given to him by Capt. William Clark. This was his 200th birthday and one of over 200 birthday parties given for him across the country. Participants gave a 200 second favorite factoid about Pomp and browsed on trail food.
Gifts: Over 52 pounds of canned or packaged food item were donated which Pomp will gave to the Seeley Swan Food Bank.

May 29, 2004 Loon and Fish Festival. "Fish Stories of Lewis and Clark." Discussion of journey events related to fish.
July 10, 2004 Monture Creek Fishing Access  Explored the campsite possibilities of 5 July 1806. This walk n'talk guided hike by Ron Cox looked at the ancient Indian trail, historic roads, Glacial Lake Missoula, and homesteading and other topics.

August 14, 2004. Two mile walk 'talk at Ninemile Prairie. Guided walk with Ron Cox. Located along Norman Maclean's favorite stretch of the Blackfoot River. Site of Lewis's 5 Jul 1806 lunch. 

September 27, 2003. Pvt. Whitehouse. We took a short journey into the enlisted man's view of the expedition. Private Joseph Whitehouse allowed us to look at the expedition from the point of view of one of the enlisted men. He told us what the best and the worst experiences were as he recounted his endeavors and talk about items carried on the expedition.

Tom Lukomski gave a living history presentation as Joseph Whitehouse, the only private to keep and publish a journal. Mr. Lukomski does not claim to be an "expert" on the expedition, but does have an ever increasing amount of knowledge about it. He has a wealth of experience with kids and loves working with them. He had a number of "hands on" items in his presentation. He works mostly with kids, but his presentation is also for older audiences who have not lost their childhood inquisitiveness.

Private Whitehouse was at the Seeley Lake Tamarack Festival, which is a juried arts and crafts show featuring local and regional artisans, food vendors, local tours and enjoyment of our surrounding environment.

May 24, 2003. Dr. Joe Musselman gave us his  "20 Questions and 15 Answers" presentation about the expedition.

July 5, 2003. We had lunch with Meriwether Lewis at the same spot he 'nooned' on a Saturday exactly 197 years ago. Tim McNiel gave his "Letters Home" depiction of Lewis.

July 25,2003. Captain Clark visited us at the Big Larch Campground along Seeley Lake. Captain William Clark (former member of President Jefferson's 'Corps of Discovery,' Governor of Missouri Territory, and most recently Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis) will make a special appearance during the Tamarack Festival at the Seeley Lake Elementary School, Saturday September 28, 2:00 P.M.

Captain Clark missed the "Road to the Buffalo" the first time around, but decided to see what he missed. Clark was the map maker for the expedition. Today's geographers marvel at the accuracy of the maps, considering the conditions under which they were made.

Re-enactor, Ritchie Doyle, portrayed Captain William Clark in full costume. Learn of the adventures, origin and legacy of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Examine all 32 of Clark's field maps. Ritchie relateed especially well to children who thought they met a real frontiersman.

Stewards of the "COKAHLARISHKIT" Trail Activities

The Blackfoot River Chapter has participated with the National Foundation to do the first ever inventory of private land along the route between Bonner and Lewis&Clark Pass. Landowners with property on or very near the ancient Indian trail used by Lewis have been identified and notified. The purpose is to see who owns the camp sites and other significant trail sites. Our goal is to parley with trail site landowners, gauge their awareness of the coming bicentennial and the potential for increased numbers of visitors. If you have a friend (or would like to make a friend), neighbor, or relative living along the Blackfeet Corridor, please contact us so that we can verify their awareness of the ancient Indian trail. For more information contact Ron Cox at 677-3398.

Our chapter is responsible for the care and maintenance of an impressive, three panel interpretive kiosk at Clearwater Junction. Please visit the kiosk. If anything is remiss, contact Jerry O'Connell at (406) 244-5612 to report the situation, or email us at

The Chapter also participates in the "Trail Watch" program with the USDI, Bureau of Land Management. Anyone who observes or hears about actions likely to affect the Blackfoot Valley portion or the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail please contact the Chapter or Foundation office. Also, please report any acts of vandalism.

When the Captains reached Travelers Rest (now Lolo MT) on their return trip from the Pacific, they divided the party into two. Lewis, with a small party of nine men and a dog, took the "River of the Road to Buffalo" through the Blackfoot Valley. They hoped to explore the Marias River as a possible route into the fur country of Canada and determine the northern boundary of the new territory.

The five Nezperce Indian guides with Lewis and his party soon turned back afraid of running into their enemies, the Pahkees, even before they passed through the dreaded Hellgate Canyon. They may have instilled an attitude to cause the party to be "much on guard both day and night" as they traveled through the 'beatiful' Blackfoot Valley.

Well mounted, they traversed the 140 miles from Travelers Rest to the 'dividing ridge' in five days, camping near Angevine Park and Monture Creek (sites now adjacent to Hiway 200). Although in a hurry, they couldn't help but be awed by what they called "The prarie of the knobs." Lewis used the word "handsome" five times, elevated to "beatifull" twice. Near Lincoln, they were particularly impressed with 'much sign of beaver in this extensive bottom.'

Much of their transcontinental trip was spent slogging up streams and floating deeper waters. Even while on horseback following our "River of the Road to the Buffalo," water provided an eventful part of the travel. The Blackfoot was at flood stage. They generally stayed on the left bank. They had to contend with 14 stream crossings of note. They crossed a creek "35 yards wide"and named it for Private Werner (now called the Clearwater River). They needed to cross the Big Blackfoot twice near Sperry Grade to avoid the steep slope. After they camped at the vacated Hidatsa war party camp, they crossed Monture Creek near today's Hiway 200 bridge. And they crossed the "45 yards wide, deep and rapid" North Fork Blackfoot just before they passed by "the large crooked lake."

After being a good and faithful companion for two years and 11 months over 6000 miles, Clark finally honored his big black dog by naming a creek in his honor. Today, 'Seaman Creek' is called Monture Creek. Poor Seaman. Historians called him Scannon for 180 years because of Lewis's penmanship and blotchy ink. Then the original journals were examined closely and verified that the sea dog was named Seaman. No wonder he never came when history students called.

About Us
We encourage local interest in following the tracks of Lewis and Clark and related cultural trails and events. We intend to stimulate public interest in matters relating to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the contributions to American history made by the Expedition members, and events of time and place concerning the Expedition which are of historical importance to our nation.

The Blackfoot River Chapter membership is open to the general public. Member benefits include: newsletters, field trips, education and social functions. The Chapter holds regular meetings, usually the third Thursday of the month, at special locations in the community.
          --Expeditions to archaeological sites.
          -- Music on the Expedition
          -- Field trips to follow "The River of the Road o the Buffalo,"
          -- Educational programs for local residents.

Individual memberships to receive these benefits are available for $10.00 per year. Contributions of any amount towards development and maintenance of roadside exhibits along State Highway 200 may be made at the same address.

The Chapter was organized in the winter/spring of year 2000. We are active, growing and need your support.

          President: Ron Cox, 406-677-3398
          Vice Pres: Vacant - Addrien Marx 406-677-2555
          Secretary: John Mandler, 406-677-2838
          Treasurer: Don Bissell, 406-677-3133

We encourage Chapter members to also join  the Lewis and Clark Foundation. Please join. Contact the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 3434, Great Falls MT 59403. When you join the Foundation, remember to indicate that you are also a member of the Blackfoot Chapter.

Join Us

MEMBERSHIP INFO -- Our membership year runs from May thru April. If you haven't joined or renewed your annual dues, please send personal data and payment to Chief Factor Don Bissell, at the address show at the end of this website.

Yes, I would like to join the Blackfoot River Chapter of the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation. Enclosed is $10 made payable to the Blackfoot River Chapter for my individual membership.

My Name: _________________________
Address: _________________________
Phone: _________________________ eMail: _________________________
FAX   _________________________

I would also like to contribute $_______ dollars toward the roadside interpretive exhibits.

Your membership will be mutually beneficial to you and the Chapter. Your support will enable us to accomplish our basic mission as Keepers of the Story, Stewards of the Trail. You will be able to participate in Lewis and Clark events and activities. When fees are involved, or participants are limited, you will receive special consideration over non-members.

Chapter meetings are very short on business affairs and long on programs and activities. Endeavors are made to provide educational programs for the grade schools. The success of the Chapter depends on your support and participation.

Please send us an email at so you can receive notices of Lewis and Clark activities and events at the local, state and national level. Email saves postage costs by not having to send paper notices. You will also receive forwards of L&C news and events often not sent by slow mail.

We hope you are also a member of the national foundation. If you haven't yet joined the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, please indicate that you are also a member of the Blackfoot River Chapter on your application. Their quarterly magazine "They Proceeded On" is well worth the membership investment.

Also, please help recruit others by telling to one of your friends about us.

Seeking S K A

The Blackfoot River Chapter of Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation is seeking local people who have skills, knowledge or ability about the Corps of Discovery to help as "Keepers of the Story.". One of the tasks undertaken by the local Chapter is to identify people in the Blackfoot, Seeley, Swan area who have particular cultural or natural resource talents which they could share with others.

Individuals who have studied the Lewis and Clark expedition, know the history of the area, have special interests in local plants and animals, or any other unique skills, knowledge or ability are needed to help achieve our mission to be tellers of the story and stewards of the trail.

Anyone wishing to be a part of our local resource pool should contact the local Chapter. If you know of anyone who you consider to be unusually talented or interested in this area, please contact the Chapter. Please call 406-677-3398, write P. O. Box 1201, or eMail

NOTE: We are continually evaluating this website. Please let us know what information you would like to see here. Snail mail or email suggestions to

P.O. Box 1201
Seeley Lake, MT  59868
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This page was last updated on: June 27, 2005