You know how you can live somewhere your whole life and not see the things people travel to your home town to see? Well, on Friday, I took the day off work to join my mother’s Shutterbug trip to see the things I haven’t seen within 30 miles of where I live.
My mom organizes a trip once a year for amateur and professional photographers to take photos and learn about a new area of Montana. This year we went to see the Marias River near Shelby, Montana that was named by Captain Meriwether Lewis for his cousin Maria when the Corps of Discovery was trying to decipher whether the Marias was the Missouri or not.
The Marias River has been tamed by Tiber Dam, but it’s getting a re-wilding by grizzly bears moving south and east from the mountains as their populations grow. This particular section, just north of Shelby has one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in the area. On Shelby’s golf course, they say, you can see both a grizzly bear and a rattlesnake in one day.
From the Marias we traveled 20 miles or so south on the Interstate to Conrad, Montana, a farming town founded in the late 1800’s by William Conrad, who made his fortune in real estate, mining, and cattle. We did a historical tour of the main street in town, hosted by the local museum.
A few things stood out to me. Conrad is home to the longest continuously running soda fountain in the United States. You can still get an ice cream soda, or just plain ice cream at Olson’s drug store in Conrad. And the Orpheum Theatre has been re-done, and shows both movies and live theatre and music shows. You can also get gluten-free, allergy-friendly food at Joe’s Steakhouse in Conrad, which makes its own gluten-free batter. Hello onion rings!
After exploring Conrad we headed to the historical remains of what once was an oil field boomtown called Gallup City. The town was only up and running for only six years, between 1927 - 1933. It was named for a Montana Governor, Hugo Aronson, who was originally born in Sweden and who owned an oil rig that he advertised under the name of the “Galloping Swede.”
The area produced approximately 400 million barrels of oil in its first 60 years of operation and we toured at least one place that was still pumping oil. Nearly 1,000 people once lived there, and now it’s turned back to grass and prickly pear cactus.