Ross Creek Cedars

Near the lowest point in Montana, some of the largest and oldest trees in the state stretch toward the clouds. South of Troy, just off Montana Highway 56, sits a grove of western red cedars called Ross Creek Cedars. Most of the trees here are almost 10 feet in diameter and were born around the time Columbus was discovering the New World.

That’s right. Many of these cedars are 500 years old.

Stepping onto the Ross Creek Cedars nature trail, the temperature begins to drop. Sunlight breaks through the canopy and illuminates the forest, exposing a gallery of greens, every shade. The ancient trees, with silver wrinkles of bark, look monolithic. It’s fun to walk around among the huge cedar roots and inhale the fragrant air. Have a picnic. Look up often.

Forest Service archaeologists have discovered signs of human activity dating back almost 8,000 years in this lush corridor that hugs the Idaho-Montana border. This is traditional, aboriginal territory for the Kootenai, Salish, and Pend d’Oreilles tribes. They were foraging tribes, hunting and gathering in the Kootenai, Bull and Clark Fork river valleys. Because of the tempestuous ecosystem, organic artifacts did not preserve over time. But archaeologists have found pieces of bones and old stone tools, lithics of ancient people.

The most noticeable and impressive remnants of the old world, though, are the cedars.

For more information on Ross Creek Cedars, call Three Rivers Ranger District at (406) 295-4693.

Mark Mason, recreation specialist for Three Rivers Ranger District, walks along the Ross Creek Cedars nature trail past the expansive trunks of large red cedar trees in a grove south of Troy. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

Mark Mason, recreation specialist for Three Rivers Ranger District, walks along the Ross Creek Cedars nature trail past the expansive trunks of large red cedar trees in a grove south of Troy. – Lido Vizzutti/FlatheadBeacon

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