Regional Feature | Madison Valley, Montana | Small Towns With Rural Values
Lewis and Clark crossed this scenic valley of majestic mountain ranges and the fabled Madison River in 1805, but not until 1864, shortly after gold was first discovered in the valley, did Madison County become part of Montana Territory. Soon after, ranchers, farmers, and businessmen flocked to the area. There were three major stage lines by the late 1880s. Livestock thrived, wild game was abundant, and the Bannock Indians were friendly neighbors of the first settlers.
Today, rural and community values keep ranching as the main way of life in the Madison Valley. Through conservation, the Madison Valley has sustained productive agricultural land, healthy grasslands, and abundant wildlife.
In addition to its old west charm, Southwestern Montana has arguably the most superb fly-fishing waters in all the world and the Madison River may be our most glorious. Meriwether Lewis named the river in 1805 after James Madison, who was the US Secretary of State at the time. Starting in Yellowstone National Park, the river is 183 miles of perfectly moving riffles that are teaming with trout.
An incredibly attractive attribute to the area is the proximity of several other celebrated trout fisheries. Within 90 minutes from Ennis, the central hub of the Madison Valley, one can find themselves chasing trout on the Beaverhead, Yellowstone, Gallatin, Big Hole, Ruby or Jefferson Rivers and the area also offers fishing on several well know spring creeks.
Montana is home to both the central and pacific flyways and with all the rivers, spring creeks, ponds, potholes and ag land in the Madison Valley, the waterfowl hunting can be spectacular with Mallards, Teal, Pintails, Goldeneyes, Canada Geese, Snow Geese and other species being represented. From an upland bird perspective, the Valley holds a strong population of Pheasants and Turkey.
The Madison Valley holds a large resident elk herd and while it is perhaps most popular for archery and rifle hunting pursuits of the majestic Bull Elk…Mule Deer, Whitetail, Pronghorn, and Black Bear are also prevalent and present the Sportsman with ample opportunity.
Ennis is the basecamp of the Madison Valley. A colorful town filled with fly anglers and ranchers, Ennis sits on the banks of the Madison River and is surrounded by 3 mountain ranges. Approximately 50 miles from Bozeman and it’s International Airport, Ennis is a small Southwestern Montana town offering an old western flair, great dining, shopping, and local entertainment including its annual 4th of July Parade and Rodeo.
Just 15 minutes down the road from Ennis is Virginia City, the county seat of Madison County. Virginia City is an old gold mining town that was home to over 10,000 residents in the mining boom of the 1860s and ’70s. Today, Virginia City is a popular visitor stop where its past seems to be frozen in time. In the summer you will see actors posed as original mining town patrons, old candy shops and saloons, and modern eateries situated in the town’s old western structures.
The Madison Valley in Montana is an area rooted in farming and ranching with blue ribbon rivers, majestic mountain ranges, abundant wildlife, and small towns with rural values.
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