Saco, Montana

Situated in the heart of Montana’s Milk River Valley, Saco is a small town of 279 full-time residents that has seemingly been taken right out of an “Old West” story.

Western habitation first came to the region of Saco as early as the 1880s. The town began as a simple railway station to service the future tracks that would cut through the area.

Urban legend claims that with hundreds of such stations to name, railway officials resorted to closing their eyes and pointing randomly at a globe. According to the story, this is how the small town of Saco, MT came to be named after the earlier established community of Saco, Maine.

While communities existed to service the station since the 1880s, it wasn’t until the establishment of the local post office in 1892 that the Saco Railway Station community became recognized as an official town. It took a further 16 years for the town to incorporate itself in 1918.

The early years of establishing the town in Milk River Valley were highly challenging considering the harsh weather conditions of Northern Montana’s Winters.

The region was notoriously known as a problematic location for raising livestock, as the crusting winter snows would make it nearly impossible for cattle to find grazing spots.

Luckily, the local ranching community persevered, and Saco became known for its sheep and cattle production along with its booming agricultural industry. Wheat, oat, barley, and potato crops quickly helped establish Saco as a critical agrarian provider in the region.

Over the years, Saco has been considered a member of Dawson County, Valley County, and ultimately Philips County.

The town’s population has fluctuated, peaking at about 539 residences in the 1950s before declining to the 159 residences as of the 2020 census.

Today, Saco remains an important agricultural community in the Milk River Valley and maintains much of the small-town charms for which the region has come to be known.

The town’s location along the U.S. Highway 2 makes it a fantastic spot for exploring the many wonderous natural attractions of Northeastern Montana.

The Top 3 Hotels in Saco

Royals Inn

Royals Inn

  • Coffee / Tea Maker
  • Non-Smoking Rooms
  • Free WiFi

Main Attractions In Saco

The region surrounding Saco is both historic and monumentally beautiful. Whether exploring natural landforms or revisiting the past through the region’s many museums, Milk River Valley has plenty of exciting attractions that guide visitors through their education of Northeastern Montana.

Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs & Resort

sleeping buffalo hot springs
Image: Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs & Resort

Sleeping Buffalo Rock is one of the earliest examples of American roadside attractions. Discovered in 1908, the prehistoric rock is indigenous to the area and was revered by Native Americans for its likeness to a sleeping buffalo.

While the landmark is worth a stop along the road, it is the nearby Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs & Resort that make this destination an absolute must-visit when traveling to Saco.

Established in the 1920s, the hot springs have grown to include cabins, luxury suites, R.V. camping, and saunas.

While staying directly at the resort is possible, the facilities encourage day-trippers from Saco to come and enjoy the only hot springs along Montana’s northern tier.

Great Plains Dinosaur Museum

Twenty-seven miles from Saco, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum is an essential stopping point along Montana’s Dinosaur Trail and features many exhibits displaying the region’s prehistoric reptilian inhabitants.

Opened in 2008, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum features some of the most pristine dinosaur fossils in the state. It includes the remains of a Stegosaurus, a Camarasaurus, a duck-billed dinosaur, and much more.

The museum’s main attraction is its display of the duck-billed dinosaur known as Leonardo. This Brachylophosaurus attracts visitors from around the world and is even recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most complete “mummy” dinosaur in the world.

Fort Peck Interpretive Center

fort peck
Image: Fort Peck Interpretive Center

A cooperative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the U.S. Army Corps, the Fort Peck Interpretive Center aims to preserve and display the history of the Fort Peck region and the diverse wildlife that presides there.

Like the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum, the Fort Peck Interpretive Center is one of the fourteen stops along the Montana Dinosaur Trail.

Some of the top displays in the center’s paleontological exhibit include a Struthiomimus fossil and fossils of the region’s marine reptiles that lived in the ancient Cretaceous Sea.

However, Fort Peck Interpretive Center’s biggest attraction is by far its life-size model of Peck’s Rex. The nearly complete Tyrannosaurus Rex was first discovered only 20 miles southeast of where it currently stands in Fort Peck.

Phillips County Museum

Located one town over in Malta, the Phillips County Museum is dedicated to interpreting and promoting the distinct histories unique to Phillips County, including the development of Saco and the Milk River Valley region.

As yet another stop along Montana’s Dinosaur Trail, the Phillips County Museum features additional fossils that have been excavated directly from the Judith River formation that winds its way through the Montana countryside.

Along with their paleontological artifacts, the museum includes exhibits from across Montana’s entire historical timeline and explores themes such as Cowboys and Outlaws, Indians, and Pioneer Life.

Recreation Activities

Beyond the region’s tourist attractions, Saco is simply a great place to come and explore Northern Montana’s breathtaking countryside.

From hiking the rolling hills of the region’s landscape to fishing the trout-filled rivers, there is plenty of outdoor adventures just waiting to be had in Milk River Valley.


Saco is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and is one of the best spots in Montana for spotting local wildlife.

The nearby Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge features several hiking trails through its 15,551 acres of preserved grasslands. The preserve is a favorite among bird watchers and features numerous migratory species.

Alternatively, visitors to Saco can head to the Nelson Reservoir, where they can engage the park’s well-kept hiking trails as they navigate the park’s 30 miles of lake shoreline.

The complete loop is a fantastic multi-day hike, but be sure to book one of the park’s nine campsites in advance for somewhere to sleep.


With the Milk River winding through the landscape, there are plenty of fantastic fishing spots to be found around Saco’s countryside.

However, the nearby Nelson Reservoir is by far the best local fishing spot and is even known to have the best Walleye fishing in Montana.

The 4,000-acre body of water is filled with Walleye, Yellow Perch, and Northern Pike species and is a popular spot for angling, spearing, and ice fishing.



With spectacular hiking trails and some of the best fishing in the state, the Nelson Reservoir is definitely one of the top highlights of Saco, MT. In fact, many visitors to Saco will even decide to stay the night along the lake at one of the park’s nine campsites.

Situated directly on the water, these sites offer easy access to all of the park’s fishing and hiking spots while remaining only a short distance from the more significant attractions featured in the town.

Overall, camping at the Nelson reservoir is one of the best ways to fully immerse in the breathtaking countryside of Milk River Valley.


There are two hotel options in the Saco area. However, for a more diverse accommodation selection, guests should head over to the nearby town of Malta.

Here are some of the best accommodation options for housing your stay in the area.

Special Events

Saco, MT, hosts no annual events throughout the year, but that doesn’t stop the locals from celebrating with the rest of Philips County. Here are some of the top festivals and celebrations in the area;

Activities Near Saco

National and State Parks

Recreational Activities


Related Articles

Latest in Saco