Big Sandy is a small agricultural community in Montana’s Chouteau County. The town is set within the region of the scenic Bear’s Paw Mountains off US Highway 87 and is for many an ideal stop-off point between Great Falls and Havre.
Much of the community is located largely in the midst of rolling wheat fields, and the town is a trade hub for farmers and ranchers who work to ensure the grain gets shipped out of one of Big Sandy’s large grain elevators.
The town is developed enough to have a downtown stretch of bars, restaurants, and shops, and one of the community’s claims to fame is the fact that renowned western artist Charlie Russell once wandered the streets while working as a ranch hand in the area.
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Cultural and Historic Points of Big Sandy
Anyone stopping at Big Sandy who becomes struck by the town’s agricultural ties to the past might want to check out the Big Sandy Historical Museum.
The non-profit, volunteer-run museum is located in the old Great Northern Railroad depot, and it features what is said to be the broadest photograph collection related to early pioneer life in Chouteau County.
All aspects of former life in the county are represented here, including an old jailhouse, military artifacts, and various items, photographs, and farm equipment from the early ranching days of the pioneers.
The museum has a Visitor Center for specific information, and the facility also provides archived information on former residents for genealogical purposes.
Lonesome Lake is a 35-acre prairie wetland area complex. This is a natural expanse to the northwest of town that was formerly used by the Native people.
The area provides some great wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as a spot of culture it also happens to have one of the highest concentrations of teepee rings in the entire state. The wildlife oasis surrounding the reasonably shallow lake attracts migrating waterfowl and shorebirds, with the majority in the spring.
Thus birders with a keen eye might catch glimpses of anything from mallards, blue-winged teal, gadwalls, and shovelers, to willets, American avocets, and dowitchers. Come summertime it’s not uncommon for burrowing owls, pronghorn, coyotes, foxes, and badgers to be showing their presence.
The fall and winter bring prairie falcons, and waterfowl, and since the lake is a shallow prairie pothole, it can tend towards the dry by late summer unless exceptionally heavy rains have been plentiful.
Here is mainly for brook and rainbow trout the lake is stocked with both annually. The lake’s shallowness puts some restrictions on the fishing methods but it is well-stocked and not over-busy.
The Neat Coogee Canyon Trail is a 1.9-mile, out-and-back hiking trail near Big Sandy. The route is typically reported as a moderately challenging route, taking most people an average of an hour or so complete.
Hikers will encounter a canyon with an abundance of white sand that more than makes up for the touch of climbing that needs to be done here and there along the trail.
The Big Sandy RV Park is a popular choice among the camping options in the area. If you are looking to go a bit further afield though, head south, and the more you do so will you encounter other campground options spreading out from the area like the Coal Banks Campground.
After that, the further you head in both southeast and south-westerly directions, there are more than a few state parks with campgrounds to choose from.
Accommodation Hotels and Lodging
As you can probably imagine there isn’t much along the lines of developed hotel accommodation in a town as small as Big Sandy.
You’d have to head more in the direction of either Great Falls or the opposite way to Havre to find some of the options you might expect accommodation-wise.
- Great Falls Inn by Riversage
- Quality Inn Havre
- Best Western Plus Havre
- AmericInn by Wyndham Havre
- Best Western Plus Great Northern Inn
Special Events in or near Big Sandy
- June/July – Shakedown County – Fort Benton Summer Celebration featuring concerts and other activities