If you want to experience a piece of authentic Montana and have a good time, head to a local rodeo like the one in Big Timber. As a spectator, you can reminisce of times long ago and the tradition of the cowboy that lives on in Big Timber Montana. You’ll feel the raw emotion and marvel at the athleticism and passion in every event.
Cowboys, Cowgirls, Cattle, Horses, Sweat, Dirt, Mud, Blood and Guts. In a word, rodeo, no other spectator sport comes as close to the real-world hardships and triumphs of working people. The people have spoken, and there are 30 million rodeo fans in the United States, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).
Roping calves, racing barrels and taming wild horses and bulls are common job duties that naturally lend themselves to the rodeo. A love of animals is also commonplace. Ranchers and rodeo performers alike know how to read animals and often can predict their behavior.
What I found at the Big Timber Rodeo was like all sports, you have to train. But in rodeo, training is just the beginning. Then there’s the equipment. First, there’s the truck and horse trailer. Then there’s the horse. And you’ve got to get a really good horse. That doesn’t even count the clothing, the food or the gas. And even after you’ve bought all of that, you still have to pay to get into the rodeo. I found dedicated people to a sport that has deep roots in Montana and the Big Timber Rodeo was no exception.
Every year once the high waters have mellowed, once the flows of the Yellowstone river turn green and warm a bit. The seven white water raft companies that call the Yellowstone and Gardiner home race to see who is the best.
Each company sends their there studs, whether male or female, seasoned or rookie. To be on the race boat, you must dig deep and in sync. The captains are the lead guides; on the stick, in the back, barking out strokes, and steering the raft.
The race is fast, three miles down stream from the confluence of the the Gardiner and Yellowstone rivers, through the center of town, and across the finish line at the airport. The rivers swift current and the paddlers strong strokes make short work of the coarse. And in the end, only one company can pridefully claim that their the best in G-town.
But, the racers all have fun. And, more importantly learn about themselves, their fellow river rats and the mighty Yellowstone. Forging memories that last forever…
Many guests that come to Chico Hot Springs Resort may question as to whether the rec center type pool is actually a hot spring. Well, if you explore around the resort at all you will find that there are actually a couple of different spots that you can find the hot water coming straight from the ground. These are the same sort of spots that are drained right into the pool. Sure, there are tons of other natural hot springs that cover Montana that are not in a pool. Chico is a spot for families and for people to get away without losing some comforting things like electricity, fresh water, and even a bar. Chico Hot Springs is a great place to enjoy a natural resource without having to walk miles to sit in a hole of hot water.
Just because the hot spring is drained into a pool doesn’t make it necessarily any less natural. The water that is in the pool is drained right from the ground and there are never any chemicals added. Since there are no chemicals added and so many guests that use the pool everyday, the pool is drained, scrubbed down, and then refilled for the next day. This is probably one of the most sanitary pools that someone will ever swim in.
Another comforting part about this pool, is that there are two different pools. The one pool that is a bit bigger and not protected from the sun, is a tad bit cooler than the smaller pool that is under the roof. This way a guest can find the perfect temp to soak in. The pool with the roof over it also has a bar on the outside that attaches to the Saloon on the inside. So if the pool is not totally getting the job done, then there is always the bar to really make sure that guests are able to relax.
In a way, Chico Hot Springs is a bit of hidden gem. If you are ever driving by that area I would suggest taking a little bit of time to enjoy the beautiful Chico Hot Springs Resort.
If you start at Highway 89 and turn into Emigrant towards Emigrant Peak, you will start heading towards Chico Hot Springs. As you drive the nicely paved road into the resort you will notice that the road seems to just turn into a parking lot. To some that may seem like the end of the road, but if you keep going past that wide section of road you will notice a narrow dirt road that seems like it goes right up Emigrant Peak. This often overlooked road leads to a place called Old Chico.
Old Chico used to be an important part of the Emigrant area. Before gold was discovered in Emigrant Gulch, most people were working on agriculture, a little bit of mining, and the expansion of the railroad in what was then called Yellowstone City further down in the valley. In 1863 the gold rush hit Emigrant Gulch as people decided to journey further up. Due to the movement of the rush and the constant harassment from the Crow Indians, Yellowstone City was abandoned in 1865. This movement started to form places like Chico. As the gold started to get more difficult to retrieve further up the Gulch, people moved even closer and eventually formed Old Chico at the mouth of Emigrant Gulch.
At its peak, around 1874, Chico and Old Chico reached the population of around 400 people. The population stayed about the same for a while as the mining stayed constant and the equipment started to progress. As World War II rolled around the mining in the Emigrant area came to pretty much an immediate stop. Old Chico was abandoned by the miners and was left to be a ghost town.
With the help from the resort just down the road, Old Chico has been preserved fairly well. The road is still very accessible in order to reach some of the cabins and the houses that a select few people live in year round. Along the road you can see the remains of old mining buildings and equipment that mesh together with the newer homes. Old Chico is the holder of some important history in Paradise Valley.
Emigrant is a town that is not made up of much, but what it does have, is what the people around there need. Emigrant has its restaurants, it has a post office, a general store and gas station, mountains, a church, and it has, to some the most needed store, a fly shop. Being placed right on the Yellowstone River means that the residents and people that travel to Emigrant have access to some of the best trout fishing in the world.
People come from all over to try their luck on the mountain surrounded, Yellowstone River. Whether they are floating or just walking the river in search for that trophy trout, flyfishing takes a decent amount of equipment. Angler’s West Flyfishing Outfitter, attached to the Old Saloon and Livery Stable restaurant, has some of the most up-to-date equipment that the flyfishing industry has to offer. It is filled with the nicest gear from some of the largest companies including Patagonia and Bozeman’s own Simms. The shop also offers a pretty large arrangement of different flies that would hopefully get the job done for any kind of day on the river. From rods to flies, everything in the store is set up extremely neatly and is kept up nicely. After being in a few different buildings around Emigrant, to me it was obvious that this place held a special spot in the small town of Emigrant. Fishing is part of life in Paradise Valley, and Angler’s West Flyfishing Outfitters gets that.
As you are driving from Emigrant to Chico Hot Springs, other than being distracted by the beautiful Emigrant Peak, one might notice the building containing all of the huge garage doors on the front. Well, this is the Paradise Valley Fire Department. As of right now, there hasn’t been too much going on around that building. Other than a few little chores, the fire action is luckily fairly low right now. As things start to dry out and the lightning storms start to pick up over the next few months, their jobs will quickly change. They will have one of the most important jobs in that valley, which is protecting the gorgeous land around them from the danger of wildfires.
In 2013, Emigrant Peak became a victim of a wildfire. It burned around 420 acres but fortunately did not threaten any homes or structures around Emigrant. The fire could be seen from the Patio of the Wildflower Bakery and Cafe. It became a huge subject to talk about throughout Emigrant.
A fire that was truly devastating to the Paradise Valley, was just north of Emigrant on highway 540 in a little town called Pine Creek. Pine Creek is well known for its camping access and the trail head for Pine Creek falls and Pine Creek Lake. In August of 2012, a fire broke out right in this area. It ended up burning about 8000 acres and destroying five homes. If you hike up to Pine Creek Lake, you can see the dead, blackened trees that were destroyed by the fire. Even if you just drive on Highway 540 through Pine Creek one will notice that the fire had even crossed the road at one point.
It is scary to think that with just one lighting strike or even the end of a cigarette, the whole Absaroka Mountain Range could go up in flames. Luckily there are people like the Paradise Valley Fire Department that are there to help protect that majestic area where people live and play.
The Yellowstone River divides Gardiner, MT, the rivers flows from the park north, wild and free through the town… The waters are a friget forty five degrees during high water, the current swift. It is not easy being a rookie guide on the stone.
Cody is a rookie at MW or Montana Water, a first year raft guide. Cody is proud the day that I took his portrait, recently he got check off to take boats with paying customers down the mighty Yellowstone. One hour before this photo Cody took his first run down the Town Stretch of the Yellowstone river as the Captain.
Cody is on his way to become a seasoned guide, a river rat… To be Continued…