Built of adobe and logs, Fort Owen is the site of the first permanent white settlement in Montana. Father Pierre DeSmet came to the area in 1841 and established St. Mary’s Mission among the Flathead Indians. In 1850, Major John Owen established the fort as a regional trade center, later acting as Indian agent. The fort also supported a farming operation, sawmill and gristmill. The original 1850 structure evolved from the log palisade of a frontier trader into an adobe-brick fortress with turrets and walkways. Of the original buildings, one barracks remains and serves as a museum with interpretive exhibits.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the park features the original 1841 restored chapel, a cabin that now serves as a museum, the barracks, and several other buildings. Period furnishings and artifacts are displayed in the restored rooms of the east barracks. Admission is free, and the area is reached by packing in and out. Donations are welcome to help maintain the furnishings and artifacts. The site is one acre in size and has a vault toilet and a picnic table. The park also celebrates ‘Fort Owen Day’ each 4th of July.
Fort Owen State Park sits just east of Highway 93, between the highway and the town of Stevensville cutoff (follow signs for Fort Owen State Park), about 25 miles south of Missoula.
HOW TO GET THERE FROM MISSOULA
- Mileage: 27.4 miles
- Estimated Trip Time: 37 minutes
- How to Get There From Missoula: