Filed Under Hungry Horse

Big Prairie Ranger Station

Flathead National Forest Backcountry Administrative Facilities Historic District

An USFS administrative headquarters since 1908, Big Prairie primarily operated only in summer, but a small tombstone, marked “Roush Daughter,” provides a reminder of winter hardships. The two-year-old’s father, stationed here with his wife, tended USFS livestock in winter 1923-24. He traveled 100 miles to Missoula on snowshoes to seek medical advice after the girl fell ill. She died before his return. In 1928, the USFS built the first airstrip here. In 1932 it moved the airfield closer to existing buildings, including the still extant 1916 office/residence. Shortly thereafter, the USFS situated its new combination office, kitchen, mess hall, and warehouse, so that planes could taxi up to the warehouse porch. It soon added a ranger’s house, meat house, second small warehouse, and a consciously Rustic-style bunkhouse, designed by USFS architect William Fox. The tongue-and-groove “chute loft,” so-called because smoke-jumpers hung their parachutes here before packing them, was added circa 1942. At its peak, the district had 850 miles of phone lines. Forty-five miles of lines remain, as do “iron phones” along the South Fork Trail.

Images

Big Prairie Ranger Station
Big Prairie Ranger Station Supplies for the backcountry loaded on mules at Big Prairie. Source: University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library Creator:
Swan, Kenneth D. (Kenneth Dupee), 1887-1970
Date: Unknown
Big Prairie Ranger Station
Big Prairie Ranger Station Big Prairie Ranger Station, Montana. Tri-motor airplane being unloaded. Wing number NC9642. Source: University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library Creator: Unknown Date: Unknown
Big Prairie Ranger Station
Big Prairie Ranger Station Horses grazing in the field at the Big Prairie Ranger Station in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana. Source: University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library Date: Circa 1944
Big Prairie Ranger Station
Big Prairie Ranger Station Pack string and airplane at Bartlett Field, Big Prairie Ranger Station Montana. Bob Johnson next to the airplane in white shirt. Source: University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library Creator: Swan, Kenneth D. (Kenneth Dupee), 1887-1970 Date: Unknown

Location

Bob Marshalll Wilderness, Hungry Horse, Montana | Public

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Big Prairie Ranger Station,” Historic Montana, accessed May 30, 2024, https://historicmt.org/items/show/2346.