Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

For Some, Fort Peck Has It All


T. Rex at Fort Peck Visitor Center

©Bert Gildart: For those of you wondering about my delinquency in posting let me start by saying that we’ve been consumed with packing for an extended trip east, now underway. Compound that with our current location in  eastern Montana, and, here, the remote setting makes Internet connectivity sporadic. As well, we’ve been scurrying around — getting reacquainted with Fort Peck, one of  our favorite areas in the state.

Fort Peck is sandwiched between Wolf Point, Montana, and the eastern edge of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. To some that means you’re in the middle of a vast monochrome of desiccated grasslands, but if you settle in for awhile, the land grows on you.


For starters, Fort Peck is contiguous with the huge Fort Peck Lake, more properly designated a reservoir, but one that now features some of the state’s best fishing. Once the dam creating the reservoir was a WPA work project, part of FDR’s New Deal. It was intended to extricate a hungry nation from the Great Depression of the 1930s.

The men who worked here for a period of about seven years helped to create such a colorful chapter in America’s history that Fort Peck Dam served as the very first cover of Life Magazine. The photographer was Margaret Bourke White, and she was associated with others who have become some of my journalistic heroes and heroines.

Ms. White was married to Erskin Caldwell, who wrote God’s Little Acre and Tobacco Road. Her photos, which constituted a story “Saturday Night In Montana,” were accompanied by a story written by Ernie Pyle, subsequently famous as a war correspondent.

The dam was constructed between 1933 and September 22 of 1938, and if one were suddenly transported to some lofty position high overhead, the Fort Peck Dam work area must have looked like a mound crawling with ants. Ten thousand men worked here and with their families, the number rose to 50,000 people, living in places such as New Deal, Square Deal, McCone City, Roosevelt – and of course, Fort Peck.


Since those days other significant things have happened in the area, most notably the discovery that the eroding lands have been revealing past occupancy. Some years ago, a fossil of Tyrannosaurus rex was discovered about 20 miles southeast of the center, meaning that about 60 million years ago this was dinosaur country.


Click to see larger images. L to R:  Michele Fromdahl, Fort Peck Interpretive Center Director; J. R. Rasmusan, fishing guide extraordinaire; bison in nearby wildlife paddock.

Subsequent to the discovery paleontologists began exploring the much eroded landscape and soon learned that the area contains one of the world’s richest of fossil areas. With that discovery, and the fact that the area was loaded with human history and was adjacent to one of the largest national wildlife refuges in the lower 48 states, the Corps decided to construct an elaborate and immensely informative visitor center.

Today, the visitor center informs on both the area’s human history and its natural history. It explains the function of the dam. As well, the same lands administered by the Corps of Engineers provide what Janie and I have come to believe is the nation’s very best campground.


From the spacious campground, Janie and I have explored the adjacent Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, fished the reservoir, explored the “birding trail,” and traveled the Dinosaur Trail. For me, photography figures into this equation, and each time I come here I try and create new images, and have done exactly that this time around. With the exception of my fishing photograph of J.R. Rasmuson, all images posted here are from our current visit.

Put in other words, if you stop here you’ll see exhibits of dinosaurs; you’ll see bison roaming a huge bison paddock; and you’ll see the glimmer of night lights produced by the dam’s huge turbines that now help power five different states.


Click for larger images.  L to R: Night images of generator towers, which work to supply power for five states.


That’s only for starters, and in another day or so, we may post a few of my birding images, taken on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

Indeed, this is a Mecca for those with a yen for outdoor explorations.



*Art from World Eskimo Indian Olympics


2 Responses to “For Some, Fort Peck Has It All”

  1. Tom & Sandi Palesch Says:

    We love the CRWR, exploring that barely scratched land. All that’s missing from a Lewis & Clark experienced would be thousands of bison and a grizzly attack.

    Ian Doig, prolific Montana author wrote a great novel “Bucking The Sun” that captured the pain and spirit of people working on building the dam. You can taste the depression that birthed this great project and the sweat and cold and heart break of those who toiled on the site.

    Sandi and I look forward to revisiting this area in the next few months.


  2. Bert Says:

    Interestingly, Tom, Janie and I just returned from an overlook detailing L&C Campsites. In 1804, about a mile or so upstream one of the members was chased by a g-bear. But even more astounding to me was their entry noting a moose sighting — and so far from the Rockies. Am a fan of Ivan Doig but have never read the book you refer to. Am now looking forward to that experience! Thanks.

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