Road to the Buffalo Along Montana Highway 200

Sanders County, Montana – When David Thompson entered modern day Sanders County, Montana in 1809, he followed a well-used road. He called this route the Saleesh Road to the Buffalo. It was a major aboriginal road system in use for hundreds of years before the first Europeans ever reached the west side of the Northern Rockies. Located along today's Clark Fork, Flathead and Jocko Rivers, the road was used by travelers moving east and west along these river corridors.

This road, one of many routes, was developed in part by buffalo hunters from west of the Rocky Mountains who arduously made their way over the Continental Divide to the northern Great Plains to secure meat and robes. These hunting and often fighting pilgrimages were called, in the parlance of the nineteenth century, going to buffalo. The Road to the Buffalo route through Sanders County was compiled using information gathered from historic maps and journals plus on-the-ground research using a compass and a GPS instrument. A proposal to mark the route was presented to the Sanders County Commissioners in February 2010 when the Commissioners conducted an informal request for project ideas. They elected to mark this historic road as one of their Community Transportation Enhancement Projects (CTEP) funded through the Montana Department of Transportation. The intent of the project is to provide travelers an historical and cultural tour through Sanders County. Another goal is that the route will be utilized by educators to teach their students about the history of the area. The Road to the Buffalo project was reviewed and approved by the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) Commission in March 2012. Their approval contained a condition for the Sanders County Commissioners to work with the cultural committees of the Kootenai and Salish-Pend d'Oreille people to assure the correctness of the historic interpretation and to give the tribes an opportunity to participate in the project. Through the remainder of 2012, the Commissions met with the tribal cultural committees. In March 2013, they held a round-table meeting for the tribal representatives in Thompson Falls. Some redesign of the road sign and an agreement not to place signs within the Flathead Reservation boundaries resulted. Final approval for the project was received and the county was awarded the project funds. In early October 2015 the route will be marked by fourteen (14) signs. The Road to the Buffalo signage has been erected near the original travel route which follows present day Montana Highway 200, with the exception of the loop northeast of Plains turning through Camas Prairie returning to the Flathead River upstream from Perma. Similar to the Lewis and Clark signage that is visible to highway travelers, the historically significant Road to Buffalo is designated by signs that display a symbol of a buffalo. Points of interest, many of which appear much like those David Thompson would have seen, are highlighted in the Road to the Buffalo travel brochure which is available throughout Sanders County at visitor centers and online with visitor information at (‘Things To Do’–‘Day Trips’) Montana Tour 200/SCCDC’s website. At the Falls Motel we are happy to mail our guests the Road to the Buffalo Brochure to use as you drive into the county. Call us at (800) 521-2184 to book your room and request the brochure. Sanders County Community Development Corporation (SCCDC), is a small non-profit organization, dedicated to the improvement of community services, facilities and the development of an economic climate that encourages business expansion and job creation within Sanders County, MT. For Immediate Release: September 30, 2015 Contact: Jen Kreiner, Sanders County Community Development Corporation (406) 827-6935 / ###