Book A Hotel
ESCAPE FROM SEATTLE
Escape the bustle and traffic to the Northern RockiesLearn More
LUXURIOUS TOP 10
Luxury Awaits Along the Top Ten Drives of the Northern RockiesLearn More
FAMILY TRAVEL IN THE NORTHERN ROCKIES
Create Family Memories in the Northern RockiesLearn More
EXPLORE THE TOP 10
Explore some of the Top 10's best travel ideasLearn More
Check Out Our Connecting Historic Trails...Learn More
Join The Club
History & Culture
Watch As Rocky Mountains History Comes To Life
Besides stirring natural wonders and seemingly endless landscapes, the Northern Rockies boast a rich, fascinating past. Rocky Mountain history isn’t limited to textbooks and museums. It’s bold, vibrant, and vividly alive. Wherever you travel, you’ll encounter sites that have remained almost unchanged for centuries. Camp on trails explored by 18th-century fur trappers like David Thompson and the courageous Lewis & Clark expedition . Visit Virginia City, Montana, an 1860s gold-mining town frozen in time. Many of the original buildings are in remarkable condition – and when you peer through the dusty windows, you’ll see 140-year-old horse buggies, blacksmith’s tools, and general store dried goods. Hike along remnants of the Oregon Trail , on which thousands of settlers carried their worldly possessions and dreams of a new life. See where Chief Joseph and the heroic Nez Perce bravely fought and eluded the U.S. Cavalry . Or admire the huge Haida First Nations mortuary totem poles on Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia. The Northern Rockies is a place where legend and lore are on full display daily.
However, this fascinating region isn’t trapped in yesteryear. You can enjoy premier culture and entertainment. Take in a fun-filled theater performance. Attend a symphony concert. Come to one of our exciting events and celebrations – from living history demonstrations to food and barbecue festivals to large-scale rodeos. Experience the essence of US and Canadian Rockies history during your trip.
- In 1754, in the Waterton Lakes, region, the Niitsitapii (likely Piikani) tribe met their first European near present-day Red Deer. Anthony Henday, working for the Hudson’s Bay Company, was hoping to convince them to bring furs to Hudson Bay. Their response: “Our people cannot live without buffalo meat, they cannot leave their horses and they do not know how to paddle canoes.”
- During the winter of 1792-93 , Peter Fidler, a Hudson’s Bay fur trader and surveyor, traveled south to spend the winter with the Piikani in southwestern Alberta, and to meet with the Ktunaxa regarding trade. His notes and maps give us our first written record of southern Alberta and the Piikani.
- U.S. westward expansion was driven by commercial trade. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 initiated President Thomas Jefferson's mandate to Lewis & Clark to find a trade route to the Pacific, connecting the Missouri River system to the Columbia River system -- the fabled Northwest Passage. Lewis & Clark crossed the Rockies in 1805 and 1806, but their route required a treacherous passage over the Bitterroots in Montana and Idaho.
- In 1807 David Thompson, working for the North West Company in Montreal, joined the race to stake out a trade route to the Pacific, found a northern route through the Cabinets and Selkirks, and was the first European to navigate the entire length of the Columbia River in 1811.
- John Jacob Astor of the American Fur Trading Company, one of the wealthiest men in America, financed an expedition to follow Lewis & Clark in 1810, but the group took a southern route to avoid the Blackfeet Country in Montana. Their route crossed through Wyoming to Jackson Hole, across the Teton Pass to the Snake River in Idaho, and then on to Oregon, where Fort Astoria was founded.
- After the War of 1812, westward expansion –moved through a gap between the northern and southern Rockies -- which lies just south of the Wind River and Teton Ranges in Wyoming, the Sawtooths in Idaho, and Hells Canyon and the Wallowas in Oregon. A branch of this route became the Oregon Trail. The California Trail and Mormon Trail also emerged from this same route. Overall, 500,000 pioneers traveled the main route, and perhaps 60,000 trekked to Oregon during the emigrant trails era, which lasted from 1841 to1869.
- In 1818 Britain and the U.S.A. agreed on the 49th parallel as a border from Lake of the Woods west across the North American prairie to the Rocky (Stoney) Mountains. Both agreed that the area west of the Rockies from Russian Alaska (later U.S. Alaska at 54 40' parallel) to the Columbia River would be a shared territory (Oregon Territory).
- Both Britain and the U.S.A. had ownership claims in the Oregon Territory, but the dispute really heated up in the 1840s. In 1845 the U.S. claimed ownership of the entire coast to Alaska (the area that is now British Columbia). On June 15, 1846 the Oregon Treaty was signed. The international boundary between British and American territory was extended along on the 49th parallel to the west coast.
- Fur traders, missionaries, and settlers -- encouraged by federal Land and Homestead Acts in 1850 and 1862 -- sought fortunes, souls, and land, inevitably leading to conflicts with the original Native American inhabitants of the Rockies. This resulted in treaties and the establishment of Indian Reservations.
- Gold discoveries throughout the Northern Rockies in the 1860s, and the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, led to more settlements -- and tension with Indian tribes. Gold fever resulted in re-negotiation of treaties and reductions of reservation lands.
- The Nez Perce War of 1877 began when the Wallowa band of Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph, was forced to relocate from the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, across the Snake River in Hells Canyon to Idaho. After skirmishes with Idaho settlers, Chief Joseph led 800 Nez Perce men, women, and children on a 1,700-mile journey through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana to escape pursuit by the U.S. Calvary, culminating with his capture and famous promise, "I will fight no more forever."
- The first National Park in Canada, Rocky Mountains Park (later renamed Banff National Park) was established in 1885 as a “Sanitary Reserve”.
- Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park was established in 1932, the first in the world. It came about through lobbying efforts by Rotarians from Alberta and Montana. Legislation was required by both Parliament and Congress. The Peace Park became a symbol of peace, goodwill, and friendship between nations, but respective management of each national park was retained as before. Today, the Peace Park managers work co-operatively to jointly protect their common ecosystem. In 1979 it became the core protected area within the Waterton Biosphere Reserve, the first Canadian national park to take part in this UNESCO program. In 1995 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Experience Vibrant Rockies History Each Day Of Your Trip
Experience the best of Rocky Mountain history and culture. Use the Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies to plan truly unforgettable vacations. Join the Top 10 e-mail club for exclusive travel info and notifications!