Deer Lodge, Montana is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived. It’s like an outdoor enthusiast’s dream and offers all sorts of outdoor recreational activities.
The city is located along the Clark Fork River, in the Deer Lodge Valley. The valley floor is about 40 miles long and 10 miles wide. The floor of the valley is relatively flat plain comprised of sage and grasses, gradually rising to high benches, foothills, and mountains ranging from 6,000 to 10,000 feet.
On the domesticated level, the valley is filled with cattle ranches and agricultural operations. Living alongside them is wildlife of all types, from sparrows to eagles and mice to moose.
Deer Lodge itself is a small city of about 3400 people, but larger population centers aren’t all that far away, at least by Montana standards. Butte is about 35 miles away, Helena 55 miles away, and Missoula 80 miles away; all easily accessed from Deer Lodge by I-90.
Growing up in New Jersey, I was used to everything being packed in tightly, like sardines in a can, with lots of “no trespassing” signs posted to keep people away. Out here, it’s different; there’s a vastness in the land that is hard to explain.
One of the better aspects of the vastness of the land is that large portions of it are publicly owned.
The 3.32 million acre Beaverhead/Deerlodge National Forest surrounds the town from all directions except north. Within a matter of five minutes, civilization can be quickly left behind. Other nearby forests includes Helena, Lolo, Flathead, and Bitterroot national forests, along with a couple of wilderness areas such as the Anaconda-Pintler and Bob Marshall wilderness areas.
With all those free and open public lands, nature-related opportunities abound. One of my favorites is something as simple as walking my dogs. We pile in the truck and in minutes they can run to their hearts content and we’ll hardly ever have to worry about leash laws or running into another person.
Yup, I love it because it’s wide open and free.