Wolf Point, Montana
Wolf Point, Montana Page
Wolf Point, Montana
Lewis and Clark passed by here

Posted Sunday November 7th 2021


ewis and Clark camped near Wolf Point on May 5, 1805. They noted in their journals that Clark killed a large grizzly bear on the banks of the Missouri. The bear was described a being 8 feet 7.5 inches long and weighed between 500 and 600 pounds

Wolf Point Marker
The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed by here, westward bound, in May, 1805. Fur trappers and traders followed them a few years later. Steamboats began making it from St. Louis up the Missouri as far as Fort Benton in the early 1860s. Wolf Point was the halfway point between Bismark and Fort Benton. Wood choppers supplied cord wood for boats stopping to refuel. The American Fur Company packet Chippewa blew up and sank not far from here in 1861. A deck hand tapped a barrel of alcohol by candle light. The fumes, the candle and 25 kegs of black powder did the rest. Fortunately, no lives were lost in the disaster.
Wolf Point originated as a sub-agency and trading post for the Fort Peck Reservation in 1879. The place was named when trappers killed several hundred wolves one winter and stacked their frozen carcasses next to the river, where they were observed by men heading upriver on a steamboat. The name Wolf Point stuck and no one there has been bothered by a wolf at the door since then.

The Lewis and Clark expedition began in 1804, passing through the Wolf Point area in early May, 1805. In the years that followed, a fur trade came to eastern Montana with the establishment of Fort Union and many other smaller posts along the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers.

The first actual settlement of Wolf Point has been difficult to document:

  • A map by John Arrowsmith dated 1834 show a notation "Indian Fort" and the location coincides with the location of "Old Town".
  • The 1856 journal of James H. Chambers, known as the "Fort Sarpy Journal" refers to Wolf Point several times.
  • Also, a Major Edwin A.C. Hatch mentions Wolf Point in his diary of the same year.
  • Many old-timers from the area claim that Wolf Point was originally a Hudson Bay Trading Post but the Hudson Bay Company says this is not so
  • The first non-Indian settlement appears to have been in the early 1875 and is documented by the diary of William W. Alderson, Indian agent. He brought a crew of workmen and a steam engine/sawmill to Wolf Point, establishing a subagency for the Assiniboine people.

The origin of the name "Wolf Point" has also been difficult to verify:

  • In her journal (1875-1876), missionary Lydia A. Fitch noted that Wolf Point was named for Wolf Creek, which emptied into the Missouri nearby.
  • The most popular story is one passed down from William Bent, nephew of Kit Carson, who spent the winter of 1868-1869 hunting wolves in the area. From 1867 to 1868, William Bent was a Pony Express rider from Fort Union to Helena (a failed attempt to get fast mail from Minneapolis to the gold fields of western Montana). William Bent told that "Wolf Point got its name from the fact that one winter the wolfers killed such a large number of wolves that they froze before the skins could be removed. The frozen carcasses were piled near the river to wait the coming of spring and the pile was so high, it became a landmark for all the country around."
  • Another story is that as river steamboats approached the "point" or high ground on the river where Wolf Point had its beginnings, that hill appeared to have the shape of a wolf.
  • The Lewis and Clark journals tell us that "the wolves are also very abundant" but were "lower, shorter in legs, and thicker than the Atlantic wolf."
We will probably never know the truth behind the naming of Wolf Point.

A little trading post on the banks of the Missouri grew into a small village as permanent houses and buildings were built for the agency. The Presbyterian Church established a mission school (in 1895) for the Indian children, building dormitories and a church. In 1898, Joseph Pipal came to "Old Town" as a blacksmith and maintenance man for the Indian Service. He built a water system, complete with windmill and water storage tank, to supply the needs of the little hamlet.

1887, the Great Northern Railroad reached eastern Montana, providing safe, dependable, year-round transportation. The railroad spelled doom for the magnificent fleet of river steamboats. These boats had opened the west and supported the needs of the gold rush in western Montana. Nevertheless, Jim Hill's railroad could do the job faster and cheaper (and in cold weather), quickly making the Missouri River steamboat a relic of the past.

Soon after the rails of steel reached into Montana, the railroad established a depot in an old boxcar at Wolf Point and built a section house. "Old Town" was about a mile to the south. Thus, the sleepy little village passed into the twentieth century, oblivious to the rapid changes occurring in the outside world.


Wolf Point Montana
Wolf Point is in Montana


Wolf Point along the Missouri River
Along the Missouri River

  • During the colorful and romantic age of the grand Missouri River steamboats, Wolf Point was a refueling stop for the big wood burners.
  • The town began as a trading point on the Missouri River.
  • In 1885, the Great Northern Railroad pushed into Montana and the riverboats were gone forever.
  • In 1914, Wolf Point began a growth spurt brought on by the arrival of homesteaders. Congress opened up the Fort Peck Reservation to homesteading by non-Indians.
  • Today, Wolf Point is part of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

The Fort Peck reservation is home to the Dakota-Lokota-Nakota (Sioux) and Dakota (Assiniboine) nations.
  • The same blend of tribal and non-tribal residents (about 50%) exists today as did in the early 1900s.


It is the largest community on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation
Wolf Point:
  • Wolf Point began as a trading post in the 1860s
  • Located wherer Wolf Creek flows into the Missouri River
  • Farming began in the area as early as 1874
  • The Great Northern Railway arrived in 1887
  • Wolf Point incorporated in 1915 and became the county seat in 1919
  • It is in Roosevelt County, Montana, United States
  • The population was 2,517 at the 2020 census
Wolf Point is the home of the annual Wild Horse Stampede, held every year during the second weekend of July. Wolf Point's Wild Horse Stampede is the oldest rodeo in Montana, and has been called the "Grandaddy of Montana Rodeos"