About the Forest

photo of a stream winding its way through the bottom of a valley, snow-capped mountains in the background.


Grand Vista turnout on the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway. Saddleback Mountain and Comet Mountain in the background.


Straddling the Continental Divide and covering much of southwest Montana, the 3.3 million acre Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest came into existence on February 2, 1996, when the Forest Service merged the Beaverhead and the Deerlodge National Forests into one administrative unit.

President Theodore Roosevelt first proclaimed the Beaverhead and Deerlodge National Forests in two separate executive orders on July 1, 1908, pulling together lands which earlier presidents had withdrawn as the Hell Gate, Bitter Root, and Big Hole forest reserves between 1897 and 1906. In 1931, the Madison National Forest became part of the Beaverhead and Deerlodge National Forests. In 1945, the west slope of the Madison Range was transferred from the Gallatin National Forest to the Beaverhead National Forest.

"Beaver's Head"

The name "Beaver's Head" first appeared in Lewis and Clark's journals in 1805. That year the two captains of the Corps of Discovery passed by the prominent rock shaped like swimming beaver during their trek to the Pacific. The photo below is of Beaverhead Rock northeast of Dillon.

[photo] rock formation resembling the head of a beaver.

Sacajawea identified the rock as the spot where they would meet her people. Later, the river flowing past the rock was named after it. The Beaverhead River is a major tributary of the Jefferson fork of the Missouri. Beaverhead Rock is located 14 miles northeast of Dillon along Highway 41.

"Deer Lodge"

The name "Deer Lodge" comes from the Deer Lodge Mound, a 40-foot-high geothermal formation at the site of present-day Warm Springs State Hospital. The mound's shape, with steam issuing from the top, resembled a large medicine lodge, and minerals in the water attracted large numbers of deer, so Indians in the area referred to the then-prominent landmark as the Deer Lodge. The formation was a major landmark for trappers and early travelers in the area who referred to the valley as the Deer Lodge Plain. The mound was described in detail in the journals of Father DeSmet, Granville Stuart, and others. It is still visible from I-90, though now obscured somewhat by trees and buildings.

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