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Age of Exploration and Settlement

Native people guided the first Euro-Americans to the site. On the Fourth of July 1806, Meriwether Lewis and his party left their Nez Perce guides and traveled up what he called the East Fork of Clark’s River, passed through the confluence, which Lewis described in his journal, and continued up the Blackfoot River.

On the same route, some 55 years later, the Mullan Road connected river commerce on the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. The confluence of the Big Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork River was the site of Lt. John Mullan’s camp during the winter of 1861-62, when he was in the process of building the military road from Fort Benton, Montana, to Walla Walla, Washington. Early settlers followed, and the rivers were soon put to work.