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Wild Prairies of Montana

Sunset on the Montana Prairie

Sunset on the Eastern Montana Prairie

So? What do you think? When you stand in the middle of a vast prairie landscape do you feel like you are in a wild place? I believe that those of you that have spent time in the prairie country of Montana you would feel like it is in fact a wild place. I know for certain my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother who grew up along Montana’s Highline thought they were pretty isolated at times! But what makes a place a wilderness to you? Is it trees? Wildlife? The feeling of isolation? Lack of man-made objects?

My name is Stacy Dolderer and I am lucky enough to be spending the summer with Tony exploring the Eastern half of Montana. This is a project where we are investigating the wild characteristics of the existing BLM prairie lands. My role in this project is the navigator! I get to use all the available maps and technologies to find where we are, find how to get where we want to go, and put all the data we gather together in a map to be submitted with a final report. I’ll be helping Tony keep the information and images flowing about this project as the summer months progress.

Navigational tools

We are using all the navigational technology available to us

We just went out to our first area to get our feet wet before our official training. We learned many things…mainly that this is a big, big, big job! It’s exciting, fun, humbling, and did I mention BIG?

Tony shooting at sunset

Tony out finding a spot for sunset shooting

I think that if you spent some time in the wide open spaces of Montana you would be hard pressed to say that it is NOT a wild place. Every square foot of ground holds it’s own ecosystem. It was certainly not the ecosystem I anticipated seeing in the Eastern part of my state. It was almost a wetland, if you can believe that! This is a hardened crossing but the water was higher than normal after a day of thunderstorms.

Hardened stream crossing

A hardened stream crossing after two days of rain.

The antelope and deer populations have been hard-hit in the last two years by snow and disease but they are there and we did see other wild creatures.

Prairie Frog

Prairie frogs were abundant after the rains.

Horny Toad

Horny toads "play dead" and hope you can't see them.

There is much evidence of wild game in this area. Perhaps it’s their winter range or perhaps they are use to hunters in their territory and caught wind of us before we spotted them.

Antlers overlooking the Montana Prairie

Signs of wildlife on the North Eastern Montana Prairie

The evenings at camp are prime times to go for a nice hike and listen to the frogs, birds, and mosquitoes buzzing in your ears.

Wildlands camp

Simple camp set up overlooking the vast wild prairie.

This view stretched for miles across Montana and into Canada as well. It butts up to Canada’s Grasslands National Park which is now new on my “bucket list.”

Hiking along the peaks and valleys

Hiking along the eroded hillsides of North Eastern Montana Prairie.

Incredibly enough we found shell fossils on the tip tops of these peaks. They were just over 2800 feet in elevation and were the tallest spots around.

Wildflowers and lichen on rocks

The colorful lichen on rocks makes a pretty backdrop for the wild flowers.

Moss, lichen, wild flowers, and cactus all grow in abundance in this area. We were just shy of the prickly pear cacti blooming…it would have been a sight to see!

Wild flowers on the Montana prairie

Beautiful shot of the wildflowers on the Northern Montana prairie.

There are also some cultural artifacts we ran across. We aren’t sure of the time period or meaning of these rock piles but they were on almost every high-point we explored. It will be interesting to research the meaning of them.

Cultural artifacts

Cultural artifacts on the high regions of the prairie.

This marks the end of Chapter One of our summer adventure. We will be doing our best to document the journey but connectivity is spotty at the least in some of this country. Stay tuned for more…

Stacy

7 Responses to “Wild Prairies of Montana”

  1. fran says:

    So great an opportunity for you both! I’ll be following your post. I love Montana prairies!

  2. Jeff in Olympia says:

    Pretty neat! Can’t wait until I get out there again to enjoy the country side!

  3. Trent M. says:

    Certainly green out there right now! I just got back from visiting family in McCone county. Their place is just east of the very south tip of the Dry Arm of Ft. Peck Res. CMR is overtaken with prarie dogs around there. Did see a few mule deer though. Love that country…thanks for the pictures of some of the most underrated country in the US!

  4. tony, your images are magnificent and really capture the essence of the Land of the Long Look!

  5. Tony says:

    Thank you guys for your kind comments. More to come! Bill Cunningham is one of my heroes. Thank you Bill!

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