MWA Presents Buttes, Breaks and Badlands: Off the Beaten Path in Southeast Montana
Your guide to everything that makes this corner of the state an enriching and adventurous destination
National Geographic defines geotourism as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place—its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.”
Following National Geographic's lead, MWA presents Buttes, Breaks and Badlands: Off the Beaten Path in Southeast Montana, a geotourism map of this beautiful corner of our state that is cherished locally for its unspoiled landscapes, multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities, vast solitude, colorful communities, and rich history. This map is the product of the Southeast Montana Geotourism Project, a locally-organized effort to highlight the unique natural, historical, and cultural sites in this relatively undiscovered corner of Montana.
North Fallon, BLM area near Fallon, MT (MWA photo by Forrest Theisen)
Tourism is a powerful economic driver. In 2013, the 11 million visitors to Montana spent $3.62 billion and directly supported nearly 34,000 jobs. Non-resident spending supports one of every nine Montana workers. The intention of the Southeast Montana Geotourism Project is to help the region enjoy more of the economic benefits tourism provides our state. Drawing tourists to an area also helps draw residents because the same features that attract tourists to an area also help draw and keep residents, enhancing the economic vitality of a community.
Geotourism, by its definition, creates sustainable economic opportunity. If we continue to protect Montana’s vast amount of natural, historical, and cultural resources, we can create a permanent economic resource. To continue benefitting from this economic resource, we need to continue protecting what makes our state special--wild landscapes, charming communities, and opportunity for boundless adventure.
To get to many of these remote wildlands will mean leaving your smartphones behind and swapping them out for a map and compass or GPS. Countless miles of dusty dirt roads, ranch fences, and prairie short grass will become your horizon as you explore the vast areas between southeast Montana’s pleasant towns.
As geotravelers, we must respect the unique and unforgettable experiences we have. Be sure to preserve the integrity of the places you visit by leaving them as you found them. Most importantly, enjoy the adventures you're sure to find with this map as your guide.
Download a PDF of the printed Map Guide:
Or use this online tool to discover the variety of different sites around Southeast Montana:
An Adventure for Everyone
Southeast Montana offers a great variety of experiences. Explore the map guide above using these different themes to guide your experience:
Wild and Remote
Few signs mark the way as you explore the wildlands of southeast Montana. Your trail may have been blazed by pronghorn and mule deer weaving across short-grass prairie and pine-studded hills or twisting and turning through badland spires and hoodoos. But more than likely, you have to make your own way. Follow your eye to the horizon, take in the view from a rocky ridge, and feel as though you are the only human for miles around. Here you are off the beaten path indeed, having a wild and remote adventure.
Discovery, Conflict, and Settlement
Southeast Montana has seen Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery and William Clark’s riveting return from the Pacific Ocean. Some of the most notorious battles of the American-Indian Wars, including the Battle of the Little Bighorn, were waged here in the traditional homelands of the Apsaalooke, Tsitsistas, and So’taeo’o people. An influx of homesteaders brought farms, railroads, banks, and mines. Buried here are chiefs, scouts, cavalrymen, and all manner of women, children, and men whose daily lives wove the historical fabric of this region and whose influences are reflected in the culture today.
A Taste of Southeast Montana
Get a taste of southeast Montana culture as you explore its hidden treasures and local hangouts. Leave behind the familiar and you will happen upon welcoming communities of neighborly folks. Rub elbows with rugged ranch hands, inspirational artists, culinary experts, and brewing masters as you walk the area's historic main streets and experience its inviting local businesses.
In southeast Montana, the prehistoric past is a constant companion. Stratified rock and wind-eroded formations invite a deep dive into the past. From atop towering buttes and rolling prairie hills, visualize the ancient sea that once covered the area. Picture herds of triceratops feeding along fertile shores. And remember that fossilized sea creatures and ancient vertebrae lie buried in the marine sediment at your feet. Here and there, artifacts, petroglyphs, and pictographs offer evidence of human newcomers, whose tenure in this landscape is measured only in thousands of years.
The Southeast Montana Geotourism Project is a colloboration that includes Montana Wilderness Association, Americorps VISTA, a locally-organized Steering Committee, and a variety of local partners. Funding for the Southeast Montana Geotourism Project was provided by Montana Wilderness Association, Bureau of Land Management, Southeast Montana Tourism, Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Dawson County Tourism Business Improvement District with accommodation tax funds, National Park Service, Cinnabar Foundation, Miles City Business Improvement District, and First Interstate Bank of Miles City.