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Some of our favorite family vacations have been to places here in the US. One area we have shared before and want to see is Montana. The more that I research and plan a trip there, the more excited I get. Today I am sharing an epic planning guide for exploring the Missouri River Country region with kids in this sponsored post with Visit Montana.
When I think about what we want to do in Montana, I go straight to exploring the great outdoors. But then I start to dig in deeper to all there is to do in Missouri River Country and I realize that what I thought of first, was just the beginning of what there is to see and do!
There are so many educational adventures to be had to learn about dinosaurs and visit a variety of museums! We will for sure want to take scenic drives to see parks and wilderness areas, and also to experience tribal culture and traditions. Of course, no visit to the area is complete without Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs in Saco, which is the only hot springs in the region. They have family-friendly lodging there too!
Ash and Pete are most excited about all the outdoor activities. They are really looking forward to hiking, wildlife viewing, canoeing/kayaking, and so much more. Emmy wants the first thing we do to be dinosaur digs, while Maddie and I want to stargaze every single night!
When we are planning our trips, we take all of the things we each want to do and we create a master list with them all in their order of importance. Then once we have our travel dates in hand, we pull from this list to fill the days. This is a great way to make sure that everyone on the trip gets to experience their favorite things and to make sure that our trip is well rounded.
As far as logistics go, we plan to fly in and then road trip throughout the area. At this point, we are thinking we will want to spend at least five days, if not more, to see as much on our list as possible. However, I think it could also make a great long weekend getaway if you were to slim down your list.
This is our list of must-do family activities in Missouri River Country, Montana:
Museums filled with adventure and learning!
Did you know that North America’s first identifiable dinosaur remains were found in Montana? Yep, it is true! There is no better place to learn about dinosaurs than here. Pete and Emmy are really looking forward to seeing real bones and even taking part in a dig to find more. The digs are available during the summer months, so don't forget to take that into consideration when planning.
The Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station displays rare fossils: fish, invertebrates, plants, and a variety of dinosaur species such as Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Sauropod, Raptor, and Hadrosaurs. That is why it will be one of the stops we’ll make sure to take.
The Fort Peck Interpretive Center and Museum is another place we’re planning on visiting! When you enter the building, you’re greeted by a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex named “Peck’s Rex,” modeled after a skeleton found just outside of Fort Peck in 1997. Not only do they have dinosaurs, but they also have the two largest aquariums in Montana! We love fish and animals, so this will be a great chance to see some of the local fish from Fort Peck Lake and the Missouri River up close.
Water Fun and Fishing
While searching for oil in the 1920’s, Montana's only hot springs in the northern tier was found. Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs is steeped in history, and is a great place to learn and enjoy some relaxation. The water currently comes from an artesian well that is 3,200 ft. deep. The temperature is 108 degrees Fahrenheit and flows at a rate of approximately 900 gallons per minute. This water contains many beneficial and essential minerals. In addition to the swimming, there is also a campground and cabins to stay in.
We also want to do some fishing!
Ever since she went fishing for the first time last year, Em has asked to do it again and again. We are all about catch and release, and also about just sitting by the water and enjoying some time in the fresh air. Fort Peck Lake is where it is at for all of that with more than 1,520 miles of shoreline (longer than the California coast!) It is the largest body of water in Montana, and is home to more than 50 different kinds of fish. In all of my research, this seems to be the locals' favorite stop, and we all know local recommendations are worth their weight in gold!
There is no way that we are going to skip one of my favorite things…seeing wildlife in their natural habitats. Montana is home to a vast amount of animals and Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is the place to see many of them. It was established in 1936 as a migratory bird refuge and is now home to waterfowl, shorebirds, birds of prey, grassland songbirds, beaver, red foxes, muskrat, coyote, white-tailed deer, and pronghorn antelope. The main source of water for this area is the Milk River via a system of canals.
We also want to visit the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. This is the second largest wildlife refuge in the lower 48 states with about 1.1 million acres! The really cool thing about this area is that it is truly wild country. It is remote, rugged and filled with spectacular sights. There are canyons (some of which are a thousand feet deep,) buttes, hills, coulees, and river bottoms. The wildlife won't disappoint either, with harbor elk, bighorn sheep, antelope, deer and prairie dog towns. More than 200 species of birds and 40 species of mammals have been identified on this refuge.
We plan to take slow walks and hikes, and I know there will be a ton of opportunities to do so.
Walking in the steps of historical figures is something everyone in our family loves to do, so exploring where Lewis and Clark went is high on our list too.
In April of 1805, Lewis and Clark noted that the site where the Yellowstone River flows into the Missouri River would be excellent for a trading post and that is where Fort Union was built in 1829; where it quickly became the top fur trading post on the upper river. The fort has been reconstructed, and the once-elegant Bourgeois House is now a Visitor Center.
Although Lewis and Clark were early visitors to Missouri River Country, the Assiniboine people already called it home along with members of the Sioux nation. Their cultural heritage continues to be celebrated today through events such as powwows. Annual powwows are held on the Fort Peck reservation, where traditional dance, song and tribal ceremonies can be experienced. We hope to be able to visit the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Culture Center and Museum in Poplar to see the many exhibits of their people’s arts and crafts.
The final thing on our list is to go stargazing, and with plenty of open space and clear skies, Missouri River Country is the perfect place to do it. We aren't planning anything formal for this. Instead, we are going to make sure that we take time each night to look up and take in the stars above. Montana is one of the most beautiful places on the planet to see bright stars in the night sky!
Learn more about planning a Missouri River Country, Montana EPIC Family Vacation here.