Have you ever heard of the Range Riders Museum? Well neither had we…until a few weeks ago. We were reading through the attractions in the small towns that dot the landscape throughout South East Montana and learned about this museum that was supposed to celebrate the history of Eastern Montana. It was near and it was open. We were in.
We arrived at the museum, located at 443 94th Business Loop # I, Miles City, MT, on a Sunday afternoon. The museum is open from 8am to 5pm, 7 days a week, from April 1st to October 31st. Admission is very reasonable. Adults are $7.50 each. Senior Citizens 62 and older are $5 each. College and High School Students are $3 each and both Jr High and Grade School Students are $1 each. If you are younger than grade school, you are free.
The Range Riders Museum was founded in 1939. It has artifacts that range from the time of the dinosaurs (I’m told that the T-Rex liked to roam these parts) into the 21st century. However it seems like the main time period covered was during the pioneer exploration and US expansion westward. This included the history of the Native Americans before the pioneers and soldiers, the battles and the effects afterwards. You will also find different historical pieces from around the world circa World War I.
The museum is located on 13 acres with 13 buildings and over 38,000 square feet of display area (so expect a lot of pix in this post). The facades of the buildings seemed to fit the theme of when Cowboys and Native Americans rode the range. The grounds were nicely kept. And the main entrance clearly marked.
We walked into the main building and we were greeted by a friendly, older gentleman who was quite happy to give us a speech about how to tour the museum. If you go, they will give you a map. A bit of friendly advice, do not lose this map or you may get turned around. There is a pathway drawn on it to show you how to progress through the museum.
The front room in the main building, where the main entrance is, was split between historical artifacts on the right and a gift shop on the left with all manner of animals adorning the rafters and walls. Just to the right of where you pay, there is a large map (like the one on the wall in grade school geography class). It had a plethora of stick pins all over it. We were told to put a pin on the map that marked where we came from. Well, we travel all the time and we just came from Wisconsin. But, instead we used Mama Nomad’s home state of Missouri. The other side of the board was a map of the world. Let me tell you folks, people from all over the world have graced the doors of this place! Simply amazing.
We followed the pathway listed on the map. It took us through all manner of rooms. I do not recall all of the names of them. But each room or area was unique. Some of them were solely filled with pictures and others with paintings. There was a hallway that had multiple dioramas setup like an old western town’s main street. We saw dinosaur bones, old time dentist office setups, Native American pictures, jewelry and other artifacts. They had weapons from the Western Expansion from both the US Soldiers and the Native Americans.
One building was a replica of an old officer’s quarters. One held periodicals from the early 1900s as well as medical devices and pictures of nurses. Next door was an old country school house. And the next building down held wagons of all manner as well as many old period articles like a mobile bar, a chair made out of bull horns, homesteader trunks and a coffee mill.
Exiting this building you are guided over to a few old pioneer homes. They had gravel on their roofs. Next to them was a windmill and an old church looking building filled with old bibles and hymnals.
We even saw an old post on the edge of the grass that said “Great Western Tr.” This was one stop on the Great Western Cattle Trail. This trail provided passage, starting in the late 1800s, for an estimated 7 million cattle and horses. At its height, it connected Canada to Mexico across 9 US states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana.
After touring through every building and soaking up as much of the history as we could, we headed back to the main building to check out the gift shop and take a second look a the artifacts that were on the other side of the room. We spent hours at this museum and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was a stop in history that was not planned but well spent. If you are in South East Montana or if you are just a fan of the Range Riding period, stop in, say Howdy and visit for a spell. Safe Travels.