One of Lewis and Clark's stops in western Montana now offers a university, a charming downtown, and plenty of outdoor adventures.
The name Camp Fortunate—given by Lewis and Clark to a pivotal stop on their voyage to the Pacific—could apply to present-day Dillon, a short drive away. Set in a broad valley with the Ruby, Big Hole, and Beaverhead rivers, it claims an early-1900s downtown, a handsome campus of the University of Montana, and a thriving community of outdoorsy types.
Area code is 406.
TO DO AND SEE
Beaverhead County Museum This diverse museum features American Indian artifacts, mining tools, photos, and Montana bird specimens, as well as Dillon’s first flush-toilet outhouse. On the grounds are a railroad depot (pictured), a one-room schoolhouse, and a homesteader’s cabin. 15 S. Montana St., 683-5027, montanamuseums.org/Gold_West.html. Clark’s Lookout State Park Climb the 40-foot-high limestone bluff north of town where on August 13, 1805, Captain William Clark caught a view of the Beaverhead Valley. Or bring gear and go fishing; the Beaverhead River is thick with trout. On Old State Highway 91 one mile north of Dillon, 834-3413, stateparks.mt.gov/parks/visit. Crystal Park West of town, take the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, past 10,000-foot peaks and occasional moose, to this park where you can quarry quartz and maybe a prized purple amethyst. Opens late May. fs.usda.gov/bdnf. University of Montana Western The Romanesque UMW campus is now home to a 1,300-student institution. A gallery in the 1893 Main Hall displays art by C.M. Russell and others, as well as game mounts from around the globe. 710 S. Atlantic St., 683-7331, www.umwestern.edu.
The Bookstore Find local fiction and nonfiction next to books on the West. 26 N. Idaho St., 683-6807, dillonbookstore.com. No. 1 Ladies Quilt Shop Books, kits, fabrics, patterns, and quilts. 104 N. Montana St., 683-5884, no1ladiesquiltshop.com. Patagonia Outlet Montanans make pilgrimages here for pennywise polyester duds. 34 N. Idaho St., 683-2580, patagonia.com/us/patagonia.go?assetid=1932.
Blacktail Station Beef rules in this steak house linked to a sports bar and casino. An Easter buffet is popular with locals. 26 S. Montana St., 683-6611. Sparky’s Garage Savor a smoky pork-and-beef sandwich while sipping a beer and ogling oilcans and other petroliana. Don’t skip the huckleberry mud pie. 420 E. Poindexter St., 683-2828.
Photography by Chuck Haney
This article was first published in March 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.