In September 2007, we spend several days in Lewistown, Montana. On one of those days we took a long drive into and through Judith Basin County.
The county is located in central Montana, between Great Falls and Billings.
About half the size of the state of Rhode Island, Judith Basin County’s estimated population of is 2,329 for a population density of about 1.25 persons per square mile.
Judith Basin County (RussellCountry.com)
Judith Basin is a high basin in the plains of central Montana nestled between the Little Belt and Snowy Mountains generally to the south, the Highwood Mountains to the west, and the Judith Mountains to the east. The Missouri River and historic Fort Benton mark the northern boundary of the basin. The Judith River draining north to the Missouri River was named by Captain William Clark to honor his fiancée “Julia” during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805-1806.
What is so special about the Judith Basin area? First, expansive vistas of mountains, plains, and buttes, remain as they were when painted by celebrated western artist Charlie Russell.
“Buffalo hunts, deer and antelope sunning themselves on cool summer mornings, stage coaches passing by, sheepherders watching their bands, cattle drives, spring blizzards, prospectors panning for gold”…these are some of the scenes that greeted “kid” Russell when he arrived in Judith Basin in central Montana in 1880.
Charlie Russell captured scenes of cattle round-ups and cowboys as he was a night herdsman, and thus recorded the last days of open range in this region. Square Butte seen from everywhere in the basin appears in several Russell paintings. It was climbed by Indian hunting scouts to view roaming buffalo herds and for spiritual “vision quests.” The painted scenes of Indians, buffalo hunts, tent encampments and Indian encounters with white settlers record both the beauty and history f the era. Charlie Russell painted an era on the brink of change and this place was his inspiration.