In the days before the cowboys, millions of bison roamed Montana. By the time the American Fur Company set up operations, complete with cattle, in the eastern portion of the state, bison still dominated the West.
With the discovery of gold in the 1860s, cattle, cowboys, ranchers, bandits, and railroads soon followed. By 1880, the bison had nearly vanished, and the lush grasslands of the prairies were available to the cattle that soon came to symbolize the development of Montana’s ranchlands. By the middle of the 1880s, more than 1 million cattle lived in the Montana Territory.
The ranchers and stockmen divided the land ranges into cattle roundup segments, each sprawling over thousands of acres. Every rancher bore the responsibility of helping with the spring and autumn roundup operations in his district. The cowboys who worked the ranches came from all parts of the country. Some had grown up on Western ranches, others were new arrivals from back East. All contributed to the iconic image of the cowboy that we know today: rugged, individualistic, hard working, and driven.
As the 20th century progressed, ranching, logging, and mining continued, and the citizens of the state discovered the need to preserve their natural heritage through conservation and new applications of technology. Today, cowboys still exist, although their traditions are fading. Yet wranglers, rodeo riders, and cattle drivers still contribute to the vibrant culture and economy of the state.
Bluegreen Vacations’ Lake Condominiums property at Big Sky covers well over 3,000 acres and offers opportunities for outdoor fun and exploration throughout the year.