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History

Sacajewea and the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The HPR is a working cattle ranch located in the northeast corner (an end-of-road, head-of-stream ranch) of the historic Horse Prairie Valley, on the southern slopes of the Big Hole Divide. The Horse Prairie Valley is so named because it is the valley where Sacajewea, traveling with the Lewis and Clark Expedition (America’s greatest adventure), first met her brother, Cameahwait, chief of the Shoshoni tribe, who approached the Expedition on horseback. Lewis and Clark were so impressed with the Shoshoni horses that they acquired several from Cameahwait and used them for their ascent of the Great Divide, into today’s Idaho. Sacajewea, who as a young girl had been kidnapped and reared with another tribe in the Dakotas, was overwhelmed with joy at meeting her brother and home tribe. Meriwether Lewis' historic encounter with a young Shoshoni Indian scout, according to historians, may have occurred near LakeSide on today's Horse Prairie Ranch.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Photo "Sacajawea" by Edgar S. Paxson, courtesy or Montana State Museum of Fine Arts

 Your stay at the HPR will include the Undaunted Courage Trail Ride (named after the bestseller book by the late Stephen Ambrose), in the area where Meriwether Lewis encountered the first young Shoshoni Indian scout, and where Lewis discovered the Indian Trail that led to Lemhi Pass and the Great Divide. On an off-ranch tour day, you could also drive to Lemhi Pass to experience what Lewis & Clark saw and felt when they thought they would see the Pacific Ocean, and saw only endless mountains in today's Idaho.

The Horse Prairie Valley is also historically significant because it is the valley through which a War Party of Nez Perce Indians traveled, following Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce’s famous battle with the U.S. Calvary in the Big Hole Valley (just over the mountain from the Horse Prairie Valley). The Nez Perce War Party, still angry from the massacre of their women and children at the Battle of the Big Hole, killed four ranchers in the Horse Prairie Valley at the site of today’s Lazy E-4 ranch, located just west of the Horse Prairie Ranch. HPR guests can visit the Big Hole Battlefield National Monument on a tour day.

The HPR was homesteaded in the 1870s by the Blair family. One of the early owners of the ranch was George Preston Hughes who, at the age of 24, rode a bicycle from Centerville, Iowa to Dillon, Montana where he established a successful retail store. In 1918 George and his wife, Lillie May Oliver, purchased a ranch in the northeast corner of the Horse Prairie Valley. This ranch, the HPR, was described in the History of Beaverhead County, Volume I---1800---1920, as "remote from the main traveled roads, offered seclusion and spectacular mountain scenery. The high-mountain meadows produced an abundance of native hay with a constant supply of irrigation water from Painter Creek". The HPR today has the same charm and spirit that it had in the early 1900s when it was enjoyed by the Hughes’ family. It is truly one of the most genuine and authentic working cattle ranches that will accommodate guests.

The Horse Prairie Valley and the HPR are located in Beaverhead County, Montana’s largest (5, 619 square miles) county, in the southwest corner of the State. Beaverhead County is the bastion of historic, tightly held, large cattle ranches (average ranch size is nearly 7,000 acres), with fewer than 1.4 persons per square mile. Beaverhead County is not the home of Hollywood and dude ranches; rather, it is the home of one of America’s last genuine working ranch communities (the real endangered species) in the heart of the Rocky Mountains.

Beaverhead County is located between the Centennial Range on the south and the Beaverhead Range on the west, both of which are part of the Great Divide, separating Idaho and southwest Montana. On the north border of Beaverhead County the Big Hole River separates the County from Deer Lodge, Silver Bow, and Madison counties. Beaverhead County is comprised mostly of range and forest lands. The geography of the County has been described as a collection of short mountain ranges, separated by linear valleys and broad basins. Altitudes range from 5,000 feet along the valley basin floors to 11,000 feet or more at Mt. Tweedy in the central Pioneer Mountains. The main rivers in Beaverhead County are the Beaverhead and Big Hole rivers, both of which eventually drain into the Jefferson River, which eventually becomes the Missouri River. The climate of Beaverhead County ranges from rare 100 degree days in the summer to rare -50 degrees in the winter. The summer breezes are exhilarating. The Horse Prairie Valley has one of the milder climates in Beaverhead County.