Big Hole Valley
|The Big Hole Valley is a 60-mile swath of high
plains, with the valley floor at 6,500 feet, surrounded by snow capped
peaks ranging up to 10,000 feet. It was a prime hunting ground for
Native Americans and a lure for fur trappers and gold miners - mainly fair
weather visitors. Because of the long harsh winters the Big Hole was
the last valley in western Montana to be settled, but in 1882 a few
hardy souls began a new life near the present day town of Wisdom. In time,
cattle operations proved feasible - after a lot of hard work and ingenuity.
A day trip from Alta Meadow to the Big Hole will take you over the Continental Divide through Chief Joseph Pass. Upon entering the valley one can visit the Big Hole Battlefield, now preserved as a national monument, where a Nez Perce encampment was attacked by soldiers in 1872. The little town of Wisdom is just down the road, a genuine slice of the old west and an opportunity to browse, shop, and have lunch in the local gallery/boutique/restaurant.
The road east out of Wisdom runs along the Big Hole River toward the town of Wise River, with lots of good fishing along the way. This emphasis on things wise probably comes from the original name of the Big Hole River. It was dubbed the Wisdom River by William Clark of the Corp of Discovery.
At the southern end of the valley is Bannack, a ghost town now preserved as a state park. The drive from Bannack back to Alta Meadow takes about two hours and is beautiful all the way. Below are pictures taken in the Big Hole and a map of the area.
Click on an image to enlarge it.