Heading out to Wild Horse Island with our boats from Matt Sisler at Big Arm Boat Rentals and Rides. We were so lucky to have beautiful weather that day.
Right away, our crew spotted the islands famous Big Horn sheep herd. From a single ram and ewe imported in 1939, the island’s ram population has grown to about 100. Lewis Penwell set out to establish a game preserve on Wild Horse. The island proved ill-suited for antelope and turkeys, but bighorn sheep and mule deer thrived. In the 1960s and 1970s, Bourke MacDonald bought the whole island. MacDonald was a proponent of balancing private development and enhancing wild life.
Amy Grout, manager at Wild Horse Island and her staff, gave a 1.25 mile walking tour through the pre-history and history of the island.
The cabin of John Johnson, a Norwegian immigrant, still stands to tell the story of one of very few settlers on the island who didn’t fail miserably. Only eight settlers of hundreds who tried to homestead actually proved up and took official ownership of their claim.
Sara Scott, Heritage Resources Manager at MT State Parks talked about the history and significance of scarred trees on Wild Horse Island. Native Americans, Scott explained would gouge off the bark, exposing the tree’s cambium tissues. “They were really sweet, and provided a really nice edible treat.”
John Johnson homestead cabin facade.
Many sightings of Montana’s famous but fleating bitterroot.
Jim Robbins didn’t mind getting a little splash on the ride out.
MPA Board Member Mary Murphy and husband, Gerry were along for the tour.