Our Visit to an Unknown National Treasure: American Prairie Reserve

Stacey Sullivan
Stacey Sullivan
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  • We were off to learn firsthand the sense of discovery that Lewis & Clark encountered during their expedition across these unchartered lands centuries ago (prairie dog towns, undulating bison herds, and hundreds of thousands of acres of tranquility included). Our first stop:  Fort Benton and the historic Grand Union Hotel, founded in 1882—seven years before Montana became a state!
  • Sasha felt at home with a namesake hardware store in quaint Fort Benton! The charming town was at the height of its prosperity during the steamboat era on the Upper Missouri River.
  • Ken's picks out some appropriate headgear for the trip at possibly the best vintage hat/clothing/book store in the American west.
  • Next stop: Missouri River float! 

Each river bend was dripping with history: a spiritual centerpiece for Native American tribes, home to wildlife, and most famously— the path for the Lewis and Clark expedition, later evolving to become the primary pathway for our country's western expansion.
  • The Missouri River has witnessed the rise and fall of the steamboat era and given birth to countless communities that settled near her banks. We were thrilled to be one for a couple days!
  • Teamwork! Katie acts as a tripod as Brooke photographs the Montana hills in the background.
  • Here we are paddling past The White Cliffs. Our guides made the trip; we loved hearing the history of the region straight from Riley Tubbs, the grandson of Stephen Ambrose, America's favorite historian. 

Riley connected us to the region and was packed with colorful stories and passion for his surroundings.
  • Our fearless leader, Ken, kicks back on a canoe.
  • Brooke, Stacey and Ken enjoy a little on-shore exploration of the area's native teepee rings.
  • Camping in the same spot as Lewis & Clark.
  • Morning! 

The perfect riverside breakfast: blueberry french toast and perfectly-burned sausage links.
  • Family shot.
  • Our Travel + Leisure A-Lister in action.
  • Hole-in-the-rock!
  • Traversing White Cliff territory.
  • Our signature jumping picture.
  • Your days at Kestrel Camp will allow you to access the American west’s wild spirit and discover tales of wildlife, geology, and thousands of years of human history. Kestrel Camp is your base during your days on the vast prairie plains, where you can discover the transformative power of the natural world from wildlife guides, naturalists, scientists and knowledgeable locals.
  • This one-room school house is called the Prairie Union School. The American Prairie Reserve restored this beauty, which was in service from 1943 to 1956 for classes one through eight. Back in teh day, the teacher slept in the school house on a fold-up bed and cooked on an oil stove.
  • Our first rattlesnake!
  • Ken and Owen search the land for bison.
  • Our signature jump!
  • The prairie up close. So beautiful.
  • The cuisine was an unexpected highlight during our adventure...some of the best food we've had the privilege of eating in years!
  • Kestrel Camp consists of five high-end yurts, which were designed to bring the outdoors in. Details like air-conditioning, warm showers, and plush linens ensure complete comfort, but they were careful not to miss the true touches like awakening to the sound of meadowlarks from your veranda, and sweeping views of the golden plains. Kestrel Camp provides an idyllic setting to soak up the power of this magical awe-inspiring corner of our country.
  • While on one of our excursions, we learned that prairie dogs are essential to the prairie ecosystem. Their intricate tunnel systems contain separate rooms for sleeping, rearing young, storing food, eliminating waste, and even burying their loved ones. Sadly, as the prairies disappear, so are they prairie dogs. The American Prairie Reserve is working hard to reserve that.
  • Did you know that more than 60 million bison grazed on the plains and prairies of North America when European explorers first arrived and fewer than 600 existed by 1885? The American Prairie Reserve's goal? "We seek to restore bison to their original habitat on American Prairie Reserve lands, providing modern visitors a chance to witness the majestic species that astounded the earliest explorers and played a central role in the culture and spirituality of the Native Americans who preceded them."
  • The American Prairie Reserve strives to create the largest wildlife complex ever assembled in the United States. When complete, the reserve will comprise some 3.5 million contiguous acres of native grassland in northeastern Montana, with a goal of restoring the wildlife abundance the landscape once contained.
  • The best kind of classroom. Kyran Kunkel's captive audience learns about the wealth of the prairie life, that rivals the African Serengeti.
  • Kyran talks (with the Missouri River and rolling hills behind him) was one of the highlights of our unbelievable journey. His passion and fortitude came through and truly invigorated us with some much hope and pride to be a small part of this incredible project.
  • An iconic bonfire, complete with s'mores and High West Whiskey capped off our night. Get in touch with us to learn more about this incredible project.
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