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Carter County Museum, Montana

In downtown Ekalaka sits Montana’s first county museum, the Carter County Museum (CCM).

Dubbed the epicenter of dinosaur discoveries, this off-the-beaten-path museum holds artifacts and paleontological remains dating 75 million years ago. A visit here is a step back to the dinosaur era.

History of Carter County Museum

history of carter county museum
Image: cartercountymuseum

Carter County Museum started way back in 1936 in Ekalaka, Montana. The Carter County Geological Society (paleontologists and archaeologists) were the founders of this county museum. It’s the first museum to showcase dinosaurs that roamed Big Sky Country.

Although little known, the museum displays unique paleontological findings in the USA. It also houses millions of artifacts that show how early Carter County settlers and Native Americans lived.

Carter County was home to numerous dinosaur species about 75 million years back. When the museum was formed, its mission was to collect, study, and display dinosaur fossils discovered on local ranches.

Today, alongside the dinosaur exhibit, CCM  houses collections focusing on natural history, homestead, and ranch life, not forgetting a veteran’s room covering people from this county that went to war.

Top Exhibits in Carter County Museum

top exhibits in carter county museum
Image: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Dinosaurs and age-old artifacts dominate this Montana museum.

Dinosaurs

The Carter County Museum is among the fourteen museums located on the Montana Dinosaur Trail. And while science museums in the county house dinosaur fossils, the CCM itself has several significant fossils.

Dinosaur exhibits in the museum include:

  • A skeleton of an Anatosaurus copei – This mounted giant hadrosaur is among the about five specimens present in the USA. This display and two other hadrosaurs found at the American Museum of Natural History, New York City, were discovered about 30 miles west of Ekalaka.
  • A complete skull of a three-horned Triceratops horridus
  • A skull of Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis, the dome head
  • An entire skull of Nanotyrannus lancensis, commonly known as the juvenile Tyrannosaur
  • A mounted skeleton of Edmontosaurus annectens

Other paleontological findings mounted and cast in the museum include:

  • Plesiosaurs
  • Pterosaurs
  • Pachycephalosaurs
  • Ankylosaurs species
  • Other genuine dinosaur bones

Most of these fossils were collected on private land back in the 1930s and 40s.

Local and Natural History

The Carter County Museum is not all about dinosaurs. It allocates significant display space to geological findings, animal remains, and numerous exhibits. Below are some of the exhibits that dot the museum’s spaces.

  • Firearm exhibits
  • Pictures of ghost towns and urban settings
  • Old equipment used by people in the early life of Ekalaka
  • Life flavors for the early inhabitants of the west
  • Ice Age hunting tricks and techniques of the Paleoindian people
  • Life story on the plains
  • Ranching
  • Rodeo-Tooke Bucking Horse Collection
  • Yearbooks of Carter County
  • Audiotapes covering tales of Ekalaka, Carter County

Annual Dino Shindig

In 2013, CCM established the Dino Shindig. This is an annual event where scientists make speeches to the locals about what they do in the area.

Jack Horner and Kirk Johnson are among the scientists who have given lectures previously. The gathering brings together dinosaur enthusiasts, paleontologists, adults, kids, and anyone curious about Montana’s history.

Dino Shindig occurs every last weekend of July and attracts global attendance. The culmination of this event is live music, kid activities, street dance, and a tour of the Hell Creek, where community members and fossil enthusiasts can have a real first-hand experience in the paleontology field.

Season and Visiting Hours

season and visiting hours
Image: J. Stephen Conn

The Carter County Museum is open all year round except during federal holidays. In winter, from December 1 to March 31, it’s open for visitors from nine to five on weekdays and 1-5 pm on weekends (Saturday and Sunday).

In Summer, from April 1 to November 30, you can visit the museum from 9 am to 5 pm on Mondays to Saturdays and 1-5 pm on Sundays.

Groups visiting the CCM need to make reservations. However, if you’re on your holidays in Montana, a walk-in requires no reservation. CCM is a free museum.

Directions

Ekalaka town sits 70 miles north of Alzada and 35 miles south of Baker, at the Carter County Road 323 and Montana State Highway 7 junction. The Carter County Museum is situated at 306 North Main Street within the town.

Nearby Attractions and Facilities

Visitors looking for nearby restaurants and lodges can look for accommodation at Guest House Motel or Midway Motel, both in Ekalaka.

Other attractions in the area include:

 

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