Three Forks was discovered by Lewis and Clark in
1805, located at the historically significant site
where the Madison, Gallatin, and Jefferson rivers
converge to form the Missouri River. Lewis and Clark
were unable to decide which river was the Missouri,
so they named the three rivers. The first fork was
named for Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury;
the second for James Madison, Secretary of State, and
the third for Thomas Jefferson, President of the
United States. Before Lewis and Clark ventured into
the area it was used frequently for travel and a site
of battles between the Crow and the Blackfeet. It
soon became a trading post with the whites and the
One of the main attractions in this area is the
Headwaters Heritage Museum, constructed in 1910,
originally housed one of the first banks in Three
Forks. In 1925, it was damaged by an earthquake and
later was restored to its original design. Displays
include replicas of a turn-of-the-century village and
thousands of historical artifacts, such as a small
anvil salvaged from the ruins of an 1810 Missouri Fur
Company trading post.
Visit Montana’s first state park, Lewis and
Clark Caverns State Park, located 17 miles west of
Three Forks on Montana Highway 2. It features one of
the most highly decorated limestone caverns in the
Northwest. Filled with an endless variety of
beautiful, colored formations, these spectacular
caverns are electrically lighted and safe to visit.
Guided tours take about two hours, including time for
a leisurely walk along the paved trail leading from
the visitor center to the entrance. The entrance
trail is 3/4 mile long with a 300-foot rise. Visitors
are also required to walk another 3/4 mile inside the
caverns, including 500 stairs down and 100 stairs up,
plus 1/2 mile back to the visitor center. The
Paradise Tour provides an easier option for senior
citizens and those with limited time.
The Madison Buffalo Jump is located off I-90 near
Three Forks. This buffalo jump vividly demonstrates a
hunting technique used in Montana 2,000 years ago.
Interpretive displays explain how bison were
stampeded over the cliffs.
Missouri Headwaters State Park has historical
exhibits, interpretive signs, scenic viewpoints,
picnic areas and hiking trails.