With its diverse terrain of rolling plains to the Rocky Mountains, Pondera County, Montana is one of the most rural counties in the United States. It is an agricultural county with more than 3,000 farms and around 6,000 people.
Known as the Golden Triangle (because of wheat farms in the area), one can expect to see many gold fields mixed in with the slew of cattle ranches.
The county is home to many historic buildings and sites, including Fort Belknap Indian School, Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, Fort Lincoln State Park, Fort Benton State Park, Leland Olds’ house, and a portion of the Lewis & Clark National Forest. Pondera County is in north-central Montana, the sixth-largest county in the state.
The county seat is Conrad, with a population of about 2,000. It is bounded by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north.
Visit the Pondera County Government website.
- July – Stampede Rodeo at Marias Fair
- July – Demolition Derby at Marias Fair
- December – Valier Christmas Stroll and Winter Light Festival
Lake Frances at Valier
Lake Frances is a reservoir on the Clark Fork River, also known as Valier Lake. The lake is formed by the Dille Dam and has a depth of 210 feet. It covers an area of 700 acres and has a shoreline of about 4 miles.
The lake was formed as part of the Valier Project, which was completed in 1938 to provide hydroelectric power for the city of Missoula and now provides water for the town of Conrad. The project also created Flathead Lake and Swan Lake; both are downstream from Lake Frances.
The lake hosts a free campsite with water and electrical hook-ups, which is great for adventure seekers being there is year-round recreation available for guests and locals alike. One can enjoy boating, fishing, windsurfing and water skiing in addition to excellent bird hunting.
The Pondera Golf Club
The Pondera Golf Club is a beautiful golf course in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. The club is nestled within an idyllic setting with breathtaking views and soothing sounds – just what you would expect from a Montana course. In addition to the unique 9-hole golf course, this scenic club features event space and is open to the public from April – November.
The club is equipped with a bar/lounge, driving range, equipment rental, golf carts, and equipment rental as well as a restaurant. There are a lot of accommodations close by to choose from in Shelby and Choteau.
Rocky Mountain Front
Just west of Dupuyer visitors will find great hiking access into the Rocky Mountain Front. Swift Reservoir and Swift Dam near Dupuyer sit at the base of the Rocky Mountains, fed by Birch Creek. The dam was originally constructed in 1910 and gave way in June 1964. A new dam was completed in 1967 which is 205’ high and 573’ wide. The water is managed by the Pondera Canal & Reservoir Company.
Teton Pass Ski Area
Formerly known as Rocky Mountain Hi in the 1990s, Teton Pass Ski Area is now known as the popular, affordable spot for families to gather at the edge of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. Purchased by New Zealand native Nick Wood in 2010, the 400 acres is home to 43 downhill runs.
One can expect a no-fuss experience with very friendly staff and no lines for lifts. Services offered are varied. From a bar/lounge, equipment rental, food services one can spend a day skiing, enjoying winter spots, and snowboarding. This small mountain is great for those beginning the journey to learn to ski.