In the early days of the U.S. Forest Service, pack animals carried critical supplies and equipment to crews fighting forest fires. In 1929, a severe fire season exhausted the supply of trained mules and skilled packers. Forced to use unbroken animals, inexperienced packers, and poorly fitted tack, the Forest Service saw serious delays and injuries to animals and humans. Regional Forester Evan Kelley vowed never again. A former World War I cavalry officer, Kelley acquired the Ninemile Ranch to breed and train mules. Between 1933 and 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps built roads, fences, and Cape Cod style buildings modeled after U.S. Army Cavalry remount depots. The Ninemile Remount Depot became the largest mule ranch in the Northwest with sixty Forest Service staff and some two hundred pack animals prepared for immediate dispatch during fire season. Depot shops provided packsaddles to the entire Northern Region and supplied horse and mule shoes to Forest Service animals across the U.S. The site accommodated both the Ninemile Ranger District and the Remount Depot. Aerial firefighting diminished the need for pack animals and the depot closed in 1954, but mules and horses continue to fulfill a critical need. Still a working ranch and district headquarters, the site is now home to the Northern Region Pack Train and Ninemile Wildlands Training Center, providing training in horsemanship, packing, and traditional skills. The crisp white siding, shuttered windows, and green-gabled roofs of the shops, barns, and residential buildings have been carefully preserved. Although some buildings have been repurposed, the grounds visually recall the facility’s original function.

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20325 Remount Road, Huson, Montana ~ Public