The Centennial Valley
The Centennial Valley was well known to the Shoshone-Bannock, the Nez Perce, and other nomadic tribes as a favored travel route between the headwaters of the Big Hole River and the Yellowstone country. The wide stretches of uninterrupted native grasslands provided grazing bison with ample feed and served as their traditional summer range. Settlement by Euroamericans did not occur until 1876. With settlement, herds of livestock were driven into the valley and homesteads sprang up in scattered locations. In the early days, market hunting for waterfowl and big game brought some revenue to local residents, but most settlers concentrated on livestock and sporadic lumbering. The long winters, great distances to market, and small land parcels combined to make subsistence difficult. Few survived the depression of the 1930s.
In the summer of 1998, the Monida-Yellowstone Stage Line celebrated its 100th anniversary. The commemoration was held in West Yellowstone and was marked by presentations and the showcasing of memorabilia from that time period. The stagecoach route passed through the Red Rock Lakes NWR on what is now Red Rock Pass Road. Originally established in 1898, the four-horse drawn stagecoach carried passengers between the railroad terminus in Monida and on to West Yellowstone and Henry's Lake. A note from the Madisonian newspaper from August 28, 1902, notes that the stageline "has carried over 12,000 passengers to the National Park this season and are having all they can handle every day. They have had to put on extra teams to accommodate the large number of tourists." The grand era of stagecoach travel in West Yellowstone ended in 1917 when touring cars replaced the stages. Near Shambow Pond, a plaque commemorates the site of the half-way house used by stagecoach travelers on their way west. The pond is now the habitat of the trumpeter swan.
The early gold rush days of Montana are celebrated annually at the Bannack State Park during Bannack Days. Bannack, the first capital city of Montana Territory, hosts this two-day celebration every July. For more information, contact Bannack State Park at (406)834-3414.
Red Rock Lakes NWR invites you to view and enjoy the nearby historic buildings and artifacts. Please be advised, however, that removal of any historical materials from Refuge property is prohibited.
Beaverhead County Museum. 1997. More History of Beaverhead County, Montana, Volume II (1800-1997). Dillon: Beaverhead County Museum Association.
Beaverhead County History Book Association. 1990. The History of Beaverhead County, Volume 1 (1800-1920). Dillon: Beaverhead County History Book Association.
Bryan, William L. 1985. Montana Indians: Yesterday and Today. Helena: Montana Geographic Series.
Giles,L.; Holt, M.; Montgomery,C.; Rule,D.; editors. 2006 Centennial Valley:a journey throught time 1820-1930. Volume 1. Centennial Valley Historical Society. Butte, MT: Artcraft Printers.
Montana Commission of Higher Education System. 1993. The Directory of Montanas American Indians and Others. Helena: Montana Commission of Higher Education System.
For Young Readers
Office of Public Instruction. 1992. Montana Indians: Their History and Location. Helena: Office of Public Instruction