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Driving the Hi Line



As Phil Bigelow writes, driving the Hi Line is indeed a spiritual experience and there is plenty of history for dinosaur fans (drive carefully, lots of accidents along this road). A few more facts and sights along the way, going east from Browning:

On the Blackfeet Reservation in 1995 a rare baby tyrannosaurid was discovered in the Two Medicine Formation. It was prepared by Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman and you can now see it in the Blackfeet Heritage Center in Browning (the museum has a cast). Some people have pointed out that traditional Blackfeet tipi designs include images of water monsters that resemble dinosaurs.

In about 1876, Edward Drinker Cope and Charles Sternberg loaded 1,700 pounds of fossil specimens on a steamer on the Missouri River in this area, to take them to Omaha. Cope had also raided Indian burial sites for human skulls and took umbrage when the captain and passengers refused to allow the skulls on the boat.

Jack Horner grew up collecting fossils in Shelby. In Chinook, the tiny Blaine County Museum has some nice fossil reptile displays. Baculites are common fossils in this area--once gathered by the Blackfeet and Piegan as "buffalo-calling" stones. Keep your eye out for the big stone V's on cliffs marking paleo-Indian buffalo jumps.

The Little Rocky Mountains, south of Ft Belknap Reservation, was a vision quest area for the Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Cree, and Gros Ventre. According to Indian legend, a water monster or giant lizard lurked near a warm spring on a bare hill covered with fossil shells. An old medicine man named Coming Day or Little Red Man (born in about 1860) used to tell a story of warriors from the old days before horses battling giant lizards (called She-X-On or Wau-Wau-Kah) in the Judith River badlands. I heard some interesting fossil legends in this area.

Phillips County Museum in Malta is worth a visit (Nate Murphy is the paleontology curator). You can visit the field station and see their nearly complete hadrosaurs, including Leonardo the mummified dino. The museum displays llocal Indian artifacts alongside dinosaur fossils: check out the obsidian points collection. One of the blades appears to replicate a T rex tooth.

Phil Bigelow writes: >>>Browning, MT is on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation and it is the home of
the Blackfeet Museum of the Northern Plains Indian (a GREAT museum). The
town of Browning is a little shoddy (as are many poverty stricken native
American reservations in the U.S.). The bedrock around Browning is Early
Cretaceous marine sandstone and mudstone. Next on the route is Cutbank,
MT, a quaint little town (the rocks in the canyon that you see driving
into town from the west are part of the Two Medicine Formation (of John
Horner's "Egg Mountain" fame) ). Next is Shelby, MT, a great place to
stay overnight. Nice looking old stone and brick buildings in the city
core. East of Shelby is Chester, MT, IMHO not as nice, but the
surrounding bedrock (in the few places that it is exposed) is Judith
River Formation. To the east of Chester is the town of Havre, MT. Havre
is a bigger (but still tiny) town. It is nice and has a lot of friendly
folks. The surrounding bedrock is also the Judith River Fm. East of
Havre is the tiny town of Malta, which is the home of the Philips County
Museum (mainly displaying dinosaur-related theme).