[Editor’s note: This post follows the previous by two days. If our readers find it preferable for us to post shorter, but more frequent, entries, we will take that under advisement. Post your thoughts in the comments.]

Coming into Montana was lovely. We came out of the North Fork of the Salmon River Valley, up and over Lost Trail Pass, and through the charred Ponderosa Pine forest along Montana Route 43. Just typing the names of these beautiful places helps me relive the trip. We stopped briefly in Wise River before moving on to I-90. Typing ’I-90’ makes me anxious. The interstates are useful, but (typically) soul-crushing. We had a free state campground staked out and were eager to get there.

Our spot was Otter Creek Fishing Access Site in Big Timber, MT. Being on the interstate, I had negative expectations for the town. Yet . . . somehow, Big Timber has managed to avoid the social and civic castration that occurs when the Big Box stores invade a town. Strategically, and unimportantly, placed between Butte and Bozeman, Big Timber remains genuine, friendly and amazingly convenient. The town of 1,650 souls (2020 census) has everything, with no fewer than five places to get decent coffee. Speaking with the owner of Sweetcast Angler – a fly fishing store – was utterly refreshing. He encouraged us to absolutely enjoy the town, and then (he was very polite), move on.

Our campsite at Otter Creek Fishing Access Site along the Yellowstone River, Big Timber, MT. Find Sandy!
Holly waiting for a root beer float at Cole Drug in Big Timber. The store seems unchanged from the early twentieth century.

We have learned to listen to the locals. One gentleman (who takes a trip of some sort every day with his wife) insisted we visit Natural Bridge Falls, just south of Big Timber, in the Galatin National Forest, up against the Absaroka Mountains. So, we did.

The top of Natural Bridge Falls, Boulder River. The bridge actually collapsed in 1988. This is low water entering an underground passage to reemerge downstream. In high water, the flow goes over the visible rock.
The canyon below the falls with the water emerging from under the rock. Because of the geologic upheaval in this spot, the water follows a rugged path. Just downstream, the Boulder River returns to a smooth flow.
The view from the bottom of the canyon.
The surrounding landscape of Natural Bridge Falls, with ”Lion Head” in the upper left and a historic ranger station to the right.

Holly and I love these out of the way places. They are as grand – in some ways – as the big name sites, and they tend to have very few visitors. Just down the river, we made camp at Big Rock Fishing Access Site. (No big rock) We have made camp on some excellent rivers these past few weeks: The Portneuf and Salmon rivers in Idaho, and the Yellowstone and Boulder rivers in Montana. And, I have yet to nab a fish.

Our most recent campsite along the Boulder River in Big Timber, MT. Find Sandy!

Please give some feedback in the comments. Topics, people we meet, videos – anything that comes to mind. We love sharing, and we hope you enjoy as well.

5 thoughts on “Timber!

  1. I’m really enjoying your missives. Unfortunately, I’ve had a bit of transmission trouble since I left Idaho so I’m back in NY to get things sorted out. Please do keep posting, it keeps me stoked to get back on the road.

  2. Sometimes the big rocks are so big that you don’t even notice them. Thanks for continuing to share your life with us.

  3. Joe, great articulate reporting…keep up your good work…I enjoy your every word and photos, too. Carol Schpero

  4. I’m jealous of that old time soda fountain experience. I can’t believe there is still one anywhere. Mom

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