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Traveling The Yt -- Summer 2006

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John and Alice Ridge here.


We recently returned from another trip over the Yellowstone Trail from our home in Wisconsin to Seattle. We had several goals. Foremost, we presented a program about the history of the Yellowstone Trail in Montana’s Yellowstone River valley at the Montana History Conference in Billings. Also, we needed pictures from along the Trail for our writing and there is always route checking in preparation for the detailed maps of the Trail. And we wanted to meet with lots of “friends of the YT” and members of the YT Association.


The trip was a great experience and a real success – with a big exception: even the five weeks was not long enough to have time to contact most of the “friends of the Trail” and members we really wanted to meet with. To each of them we apologize. It was a real frustration to have to drive on by just to meet the next commitment.


We will report about a few of the high points of the trip in the Arrow, the newsletter of the Yellowstone Trail Association. And, as we can, we’ll drop a few notes here in the American Road Forum.


For now, a bit about the Billings meeting. As you know, the Trail began in South Dakota in 1912. (See www.yellowstonetrail.org for some of the basic history.) It was active in Montana by 1914 and played a major role in determining the location of the major east/west highway through the state. The YT Association’s 1914 book, “On the Yellowstone Trail,” called Billings “The metropolis of the midland empire,” as so it remains. It has great restaurants, attractions, and panoramic views from the rim rock. We gave our presentation to an interested audience of professional historians, history buffs, and teachers. We hope they each have an appreciation of the economic and cultural importance of the YT and of the potential of integrating local history with national history using the Trail as a theme.


A second highlight of the meeting was the Saturday tour of the Huntley Project, one of the first and most successful federal government irrigation projects. Early travelers on the YT drove among the 40-acre homesteads sold to them for $34, payable over ten years without interest! Still very much alive with a great little museum to learn about every aspect of the project.


Has anyone out there heard of the Huntley Project?

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