Come July, the Old Trail Museum is offering another chance for Montanans to experience some ancient history right in their backyard.
The Choteau museum is once again offering two tours this summer of the Old North Trail, an ancient highway thought to have been formed thousands of years ago as people migrated from Asia by way of the Bering Sea land bridge and traveled south.
The tours offer a rare glimpse of the once-thriving land on the Rocky Mountain Front that is not usually open to the general public, said Julie Ameline, manager of the Old Trail Museum.
“The only way people can see this is if they go on our tours, because a lot of it is on private property,” Ameline said. “So, you can’t just go out there and start wandering around by yourself. So, that’s why we do these tours.”
The first tour is on July 13, featuring the north side of the trail, followed by the south side trek on July 20. To sign up for either of the tours, call the Old Trail Museum at 406-466-5332. There is a suggested donation to the museum of $25 per adult and $10 for children, which is paid on the day of the tour.
Each tour is 6-7 hours, some on foot and some by vehicle.
“It’s not a strenuous outing, but there is some walking,” Ameline said.
The tours are guided by geologist Dave Shea, V.V. Shea, Dave Hartman, Anne Dellwo, and historian Al Wiseman.
The Old North Trail was an ancient migrant route stretching from northern Canada all the way to Mexico. Markers along the old route are still there in places, Ameline said.
There are still artifacts from Native American tribes from the area, as well as the Metis, a tribe of people of Native American, French and Scottish ancestry.
“I love the history of what’s happened up there in the mountains,” Ameline said. “From the Metis landing there and being like refugees in the canyon. The Metis cemetery is absolutely awesome, and seeing parts of the Old North Trail. I guess I like it all.”
Dave Shea, Old Trail Museum board member and naturalist, points out the location of an old Metis settlement near the Teton Canyon Cemetery. The Metis people originated when the Hudson Bay Company intermarried with Cree Assiniboine women. (Photo: Great Falls Tribune Photo/Sarah Dettmer)
The Old North Trail is believed to have formed thousands of years ago when people from Asia crossed the Bering Sea land bridge and made their way south. The trail was heavily used by the Blackfeet tribes in the area and by the Metis, people of mixed French and Native American blood.
The Teton Cnayon Cemetery, a burial ground for many of the Metis people in the area, interned its first body in 1890. Marguerite LaRance was born in 1817 and died when she was 73 years old. She is buried beneath an old aspen tree in the center of the cemetery. (Photo: Great Falls Tribune Photo/Sarah Dettmer)
A boulder in the prairie beyond the Rocky Mountain Front. The boulder has been rubbed smooth along its edges from years of bison herds scratching their backs against it. (Photo: Great Falls Tribune Photo/Sarah Dettmer)