Marias Pass straddling the Continental Divide on US-2 in Montana
July 17, 2007.
We will spend the night tonight in the Riverview RV Park in Cut Bank, Montana. We are in a water & electric site $24.08 with 10% Good Sam discount. It is nothing but an OK RV-Park in a small town. The park only has a few small trees but the park does have location ------- in the city.
We are moving the motorhome from the West Glacier area (Western Gate to Glacier National Park) east on US 2 about 107 miles to Cut Bank a small town on the short-grass prairie. We have a problem with our "house air conditioning" in the motorhome and need to get it repaired. The closest repair place just happened to be in Cut Bank so that is why we are heading to Cut Bank. By the way, if want to know, Cut Bank, Montana is one of those places the weather station frequently mentions in the winter since it is regularly the coldest place in the United States.
As we leave West Glacier heading east on US 2 the first order of business is to cross the Continental Divide at Marias Pass. Logan Pass on the Going to the Sun Highway is located 25 to 30-miles to the north. The only thing the two roads have in common is that they both cross over the Continental Divide. Well, they are both paved but that is about all they have in common. The grade over the Continental Divide on US 2 at Marias Pass is very gradual and were it not for signs we would have difficulty realizing we were crossing the Continental Divide.
The Continental Divide and Marias Pass is not one of those difficult passes to negotiate. Marias Pass is the lowest crossing of the Continental Divide in Montana. Water flowing west from the Continental Divide eventually enters the Pacific Ocean, while water flowing east eventually reaches the Atlantic Ocean.
Located on the Continental Divide on Marias Pass is Memorial Square at Marias Pass. The Memorial, in addition to being on the Continental Divide is also located on the boundary between the Flathead and Lewis & Clark National Forests. Memorial Square was constructed in 1989 to enhance visitor appreciation of the historical, cultural, and scenic attractions at Marias Pass in a cooperative project between the U.S. Forest Service, Federal Agencies, State and Tribal Governments.
The name "Marias" was first mentioned by Captain Meriweather Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition in his diary of 1805. It is believed he named the Marias River after his cousin, Maria Wood. Headwaters of the Marias River are on the pass. This pass over the Continental Divide was later identified as Marias.
Before "white men" set eyes on this area local Indians used the pass to cross the mountains onto the plains to hunt bison. The pass has also been referred to as "Theodore Roosevelt Pass."
The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Monument
Ok, what kind of "Memorial Monument" is located here?
The answer is: The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Monument.
The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial monument constructed in 1931 honors the president who made forest conservation a national policy. It also marks the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
The monument was originally to have been a granite arch spanning the highway. Instead, this obelisk was built. The monument is a tapering 60-foot tall obelisk which resembles the Washington Monument. Its concrete core originally extended 19 feet underground. The seven-inch-thick granite slabs covering the monument were quarried from a source near Helena, the state's capital.
To begin with the monument was located in the center of the "Roosevelt International Highway, but was moved to this site off the highway in Memorial Square. It continues to be located on the Continental Divide.
Lewis and Clark National Forest memorial to Theodore Roosevelt and the Flathead National Forest Memorial to Theodore Roosevelt
Both of these plaques were on the base of the obelisk, one on the Lewis & Clark National Forest side and the other on the Flathead National Forest side.
Another Memorial located at Memorial Square on Marias Pass is the John F. Stevens Memorial Statue. John F. Stevens was a civil engineer for the Great Northern Railroad. He was charged with finding a suitable rail route across the Continental Divide. In December of 1889, Stevens located and recorded the pass which had been used by area Native Americans for many centuries. Keep in mind that the Transcontinental RR was completed in 1869 so this is 20-years after the first RR crossed the continent.
By 1893, the Great Northern was running trains over Marias Pass. This route provided the lowest pass (at 5,216 feet above sea level) and the shortest link between the headwaters of the Mississippi River and the Pacific Coast.
A 56-mile section of highway (US-2) over Marias Pass was the last section of the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway to be completed. Prior to the completion of this section in 1930, automobiles were loaded onto railcars and transported from one side of the pass to the other. Now the Theodore Roosevelt International Highway extends 4,060 miles from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon, by way of Ontario, Canada.
Looking north from Memorial Square on the Continental Divide across Roosevelt International Highway US-2
And, lest I forget, Memorial Square had one more noteworthy individual to memorialize and that was William H. "Slippery Bill" Morrison.
We have friends in Pensacola that will get a "kick" out of this memorial to "Slippery Bill" Morrison. I suppose I will find out how amusing others find this when we get back to Pensacola in September.
William H. "Slippery Bill" Morrison Memorial
Until next time remember how good life is.
Mike & Joyce Hendrix
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Until next time remember how good life is.