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Circle, Montana

Circle is a largely agricultural and ranching community in north-eastern Montana. Located along the Big Sky Back Country Byway, the small town developed around ranchers coming into the area as early as 1884.

Circle got its name from the fact that back then many community ranches were known by their brand a circle in the case of the Mabry Cattle Corporation which thus became known as the Circle Ranch.

It wasn’t until 1905 though, when an old store opened up a post office and named it Circle, catering to the local agricultural and ranching settlers that the town started to take proper form.

Further developments occurred once McCone County had been formed in 1919 and Circle became the county seat, a key factor in the community’s development.

Circle moved to its present location when the Great Northern Pacific platted it as a town site in 1914, and once the Railroad turned up and started work on a branch line to Brockway in 1928, the town’s fate was sealed.

It was the cause of many celebrations in the area when the population numbers reached their highest, as they did again in the 1960s with the discovery of oil.

circle, mcCone county
Image: Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Cultural and Historic Points of Circle

historic gladstone hotel
Image: Ltvine

Not much of the original settlement remains in the current site of the town which saw many modern buildings replace or add to the former ramshackle constructions that played their part in the town’s initial start-up.

The Gladstone Hotel

The Gladstone Hotel is one of the few remaining original buildings, located on Circle’s main street.

The hotel was a highly-regarded establishment during the period of the town’s initial development and boom, and this recent addition to the National Register of Historic Places although dilapidated stands as an exquisite monument to the early homesteading era.

The Gladstone Hotel first opened up its 20 rooms to guests in the new and expanding town in 1915, on Christmas Day. As it turned out, the hotel would come to serve a variety of purposes over the years, including being used as the local hospital for a year or more during the 1918 flu epidemic, and as a retirement home.

It became something of a gathering point during WWII, but it never opened up again properly to its former glory before prohibition occurred.

The Gladstone received an additional ten rooms when the 1948 oil ‘boom’ raised new expectations for the town of Circle, a mood embraced fully by the hotel’s owners.

The condition of the building today is unfortunately in no way representative of the role the hotel played in the town’s development. It stood as a symbol of and helped establish a semblance of permanence and prosperity.

The McCone County Museum

The McCone County Museum in Circle combines a rather eclectic collection of local items, memorializing the homesteading and railroading era.

It starts out with the town’s former passenger station originally built by the Northern Pacific Railroad. In order to explain the Circle’s importance as a crossroads for heritage tourists traveling the backroads of the region, various interpretive kiosks highlight key places and themes.

The museum opens Monday through Friday 9.00 am-5.00 pm, May 1 through September 30.

Recreation Activities in and around the Area

Modern-day Circle has various amenities in and around the town such as a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a golf course, a tennis court, and a multi-purpose park with a picnic and play area and overnight camping.

McCone County is a prairie country with lots of wide-open spaces across the terrain.

Fishing

The huge Fort Peck Reservoir and Recreation Area are set amidst a Missouri Breaks backdrop across the Badlands terrain of north-eastern Montana.

The lake is around an hour away from Circle heading West and North along the MT-200 and MT-24 respectively.

This man-made reservoir offers some of the most unique fishing in the country it is walleyes, sauger, saugeye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, lake trout and chinook salmon, and all the kind of things you are looking for.

The lake can seem almost like a wilderness fishing experience for anyone using a fair-sized, well-equipped motorboat. In fact, Fort Peck Reservoir is so remote in some spots you may not even see another boat.

Camping

Circle Town Park is where you will find a 10-site tent campground in the town.

A bit further over to the other side of town and the Horse Creek RV Park offers showers and free Wi-Fi set amidst landscaped surroundings.

The Downstream Campground close to Fort Peck is another popular choice in the area around this massive body of water.

There’s also the Small Towne RV Campground in nearby Terry, within walking distance of a local park and a swimming pool. The 20-site RV Oasis is also in neighboring Terry and caters mainly to trailers although tent spaces are available.

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 Circle.

You’d have to be heading more in the direction of Wolf Point and Glendive to find some of the options you might be looking for accommodation-wise

Special Events in or near Circle

  • Aug – McCone County Fair – an annual local event featuring all kinds of activities and occurrences including the PRCA Rodeo
  • Sept – Town & Country Day – annual local celebration and event

Activities and other Points of Interest near Circle

Forests/State/National Parks/Wilderness Areas

Museums/Historic Items

Nearby Towns/Cities

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