Via magazine
Via magazine - Your AAA Magazine

Havre, Mont.: History Spot

tour exhibit, Havre, Mont.
Photo caption
Havre's past includes brothels, opium dens, and saloons.

A short drive from Canada in Montana's Hi-Line area, Havre (population 9,600) is the state's eighth-largest city. Even before it became a railroad and farming hub, the region was a prime hunting ground for American Indians. The city honors its past and present—with a parade, a pancake breakfast, and more —during Havre Festival Days, around the third week in September ( But the spot is worth a visit anytime. Area code is 406.

  • When fire devastated Havre's downtown in 1904, shops moved to basements until things got back to normal. Already thriving belowground were saloons, brothels, and opium dens—a few of the 18 businesses re-created in Havre Beneath the Streets, open for hour-long tours. 120 Third Ave., 265-8888.
  • Some 2,000 years ago, Native inhabitants teamed up to drive bison by the hundreds over a precipice above the Milk River; the hunters then finished off the stunned and injured animals with spears. At the Wahkpa Chu'gn Archaeological Site—where many bison remains are visible—visitors can try a spear toss of their own. Behind the Havre Holiday Village Mall off Highway 2, 265-6417.
  • Combative relations with local Indians motivated the U.S. Army to build Fort Assinniboine in 1879. Once the nation's largest military post, the fort was for several years the base for an African American regiment led by General John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. Tours cover 15 of the original 100-plus fort buildings. Book tours at the H. Earl Clack Museum (below).
  • Beaver Creek Park, at 10,000 acres, is the nation's largest county park. Stroll the Bear Paw Nature Trail, blazed by soldiers from Fort Assinniboine. Twelve miles south of Havre on Highway 234, 395-4565.
  • Marvel at a display of 76-million-year-old fossilized eggs and the skeleton of an infant Lambeosaurus, or duck-billed dinosaur, at the H. Earl Clack Museum. 1753 Hwy. 2 NW, No. 30, 265-4000.

Photography by Andrew Geiger

This article was first published in September 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.