Outdoors blog

Beartooth Highway recognized for historical significance

Montana's Beartooth Highway (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
Montana's Beartooth Highway (Cheryl-Anne Millsap / Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

OUTDOOR TRAVEL -- I have a special fondness for the Beartooth Highway between Red Lodge and Cooke City, Mont.  My father was a laborer who helped build the engineering marvel during the major construction period, 1932-1936.  But more on that in a bit....

Here's the latest news about the road that Charles Kuralt called "the most beautiful drive in America:"  The Beartooth Highway in Montana and Wyoming has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

A 60-mile stretch of U.S. 212 has been officially named the Red Lodge - Cooke City Approach Road Historic District.  

It’s part of a 68-mile highway that runs from Red Lodge, Montana, into northern Wyoming, on to Cooke City in Montana and then back down to the Wyoming border where it meets the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  

The highway is nationally significant for substantially increasing recreational development and tourism in Yellowstone and the region. The road is also recognized for its distinctive engineering and the methods of high-altitude road construction used in its construction.  

It is the highest elevation highway in Wyoming at 10,947 feet and in Montana at 10,350 feet.   

Personally, it's an access route to some of my favorite hiking and fishing destination in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area.

I have a map of the area from the 1930s on which my dad marked Beartooth area hike-in lakes and the type of fishing he experience at each one as he explored with a fishing rod in hand on days off.  Dad, who would be 94 if he were still alive, told me he would catch fish in the early season and bury them in the snow until he was finished for the day. Then he'd pack them down to the construction camp, where he'd quickly be everyone's friend.

Only once did he have to share the fish with a bear who'd found his cache, he said.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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