In Montana, I am told there are no buffalo here, only bison. The only two real buffalos, are the Cape Buffalo in Africa, which I saw last summer, and the Asian water buffalo, which we saw in SE Asia. But yes, the American bison does resemble the buffalo, particularly for early American settlers. Can you imagine if we had to call William Hickok by his correct name, “Bison Bill?”
On a previous trip, we did stop by the National Bison Wildlife Range, honoring the once 30 to 60 million bison that roamed the west. Due to overhunting, that number dwindled to about 100 in the 1800s. President Theodore Roosevelt established the bison range in 1908 to keep the bison from extinction.
The herd at the range numbers from 300 to 400, along with Rocky Mountain elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, coyote, mountain lions, bears, bobcats, and 200 species of birds. With cooler days and frosty nights, the animals actually become more active. Wildlife viewing and photography possibilities increase dramatically. And elk mating actually starts in September as well.
On a completely different note, the best golf course in Montana is located here in Bigfork. Eagle Bend Golf Club has 27 holes, designed by Jack Nicklaus. I include the golf course, since many wild animals are likely to appear on golf courses as well as any state or national park. After all, this is Montana.
Downstream from Libby is the famous Kootenai Falls, scene of the 1993 movie, “River Wild.” It is one of the largest free flowing waterfalls in the Northwest. The Falls are 30 to 90 feet high, and reach a speed of 30,000 cubic feet per second. The Kootenai River itself is full of trout and white sturgeon that can live to 80 years old! Nearby Kootenai National Forest contains over 2.2 million acres for recreational purposes.
Nearby, Whitefish Mountain stand 6817 feet high with a chair lift taking visitors to great views of Flathead Lake, Glacier National Park, and Whitefish Lake. Also located here are five zip-line tour about 300 feet above the ground. Hikers and mountain bikers love the area as well.
If we stay until winter, or come back when the snow keeps, the Whitefish Mountain Resort has 3000 acres of ski terrain with over 300 feet of snow annually. Compared to California, lift tickets are a manageable $66 a day. The Resort has night skiing as well as 14 chair lifts, and three quads.
Here is the scoop on buffalo meat, rather surprising, too.
Per 100 GRAM SERVING – COOKED MEAT
MG VITAMIN B-12
Bison: 2.42 143 82 3.42 2.86
Beef (choice): 10.15 219 86 2.99 2.65
Beef (Select): 8.09 201 86 2.99 2.64
Pork: 9.66 212 86 1.1 0.75
Chicken (Skinless): 7.41 190 89 1.21 0.33
Sockeye Salmon: 10.97 216 87 0.55 5.80
Of great concern here are the celebrities and wealthy who come up here to buy large parcels of land. It appears they want these large tracts, mostly for privacy, rather than environmental reasons. As a result, land has become more expensive for people like us, looking for an acre or two of land, perhaps build a small summer home, or place a seasonal structure like a motorhome on the property. So, on one hand it is the small home owner or family rancher who made this area so desirable. It has been taken over by the rich and famous, with very mixed results. What to do?
We are now in Hamilton where our friends have their horse ranch. They are adding to their ranch with a new foal they have yet to take back the ranch. Today, Sheri is going to ride one of their horses, Smokey, who is a transplant from Becky’s California ranch in Franklin Canyon.
Meanwhile, I am renting a bicycle and will enjoy the many bike trails along the state highways. The mornings have turned cold, fall is definitely here. But the deadly pine beetle has invaded the area and the state in general. The area is so peaceful and beautiful. I am finding I enjoy the countryside as much or more than urban places.