Muskrat - Montana Muskrat Company

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A Chicago businessman named James Hall bought the land at the mouth of the Swan River from Harry Johnson in 1925. His plan was to provide prime muskrat pelts to make boas, buffs, coats, and other fashion accessories and to use the muskrat to imitate other more exotic furs. It was developed as a stock corporation. A lot of money was invested and ambitious facilities were built to trap and process the muskrats. It would employ 20-30 people and produce 90,000 pelts annually. At least that was the plan until the stock market crash of 1929. The bottom fell out of the fur market and the Montana Muskrat Company Colony “A” Ranch shut down by 1933. 

Despite a big investment in underground and above ground fencing, the muskrats kept digging out and escaping. The company would probably never have achieved the success it hoped for even if the depression had not intervened. There is almost no trace of the muskrat ranch today. Old pieces of fencing or an old water channel out in the bog are the only remains left. More of this Swan Valley history can be read in the summer 1986 edition of the Northwest Journal.

The Swan River National Wildlife Refuge was established on May 14, 1973, at the request of Montana Senator Lee Metcalf, who often hunted the area and who wanted to see it preserved.