Millions of years ago dinosaurs roamed the area that is now CMR. Long before the Missouri River existed, Tyranosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Mosasaurus and other creatures lived and died here. Their fossilized remains are occasionally uncovered by wind and water and give a glimpse into the far distant past.In more recent times (200 to 500 years ago), native tribes such as the Crow, Sioux, Blackfeet and Assiniboine used the area for hunting. The abundant wildlife that native tribes found here was first recorded by Lewis and Clark in May of 1805 as they made their way along the section of the Missouri River that now lies within CMR.
"Saw but few buffalow today, but a great number of Elk, deer, some antelopes and 5 bear" Meriwether Lewis, May 23, 1805
The elk, deer, bison, grizzly bears and especially beaver, that Lewis and Clark wrote about soon attracted fur trappers and traders. The Missouri was the main route of travel into Montana and small settlements, trading posts and military forts were established along the river. Along with settlement came notorious gangs of outlaws, including the infamous Kid Curry, who used the rough country of the Missouri breaks as hide-outs.
By the 1880’s the Union pacific Railroad was completed which made travel and settlement of the country easier. Homesteaders were lured by offers of free land and reports of lush grasslands ready to be farmed. The homestead boom lasted until 1918 when drought forced many people to leave their land. Those who remained began to understand the lack of predictable moisture in the eastern part of the State limited dry land farming. This, in combination with the Great Depression, caused a mass exodus from Montana in which half of Montana farmers lost their farms between 1921 and 1925.
In 1935, Olaus Murie, a biologist for the Bureau of Biological Survey (now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)—traveled to the Fort Peck area to determine if the area should be set aside as a refuge. On Murie’s recommendation, in 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Fort Peck Game Range for the following purposes:
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The refuge was named in recognition of this colorful western artist who often portrayed the refuge’s landscape in his paintings and whose conservation ethic was years ahead of his time.