| The rise and decline of
steamboat on the upper Missouri River formed a strange and unusual
spectacle which was flashed for a space before the world and then
withdrawn forever. For three decades, beginning in the 1860's, boats
forced their way from St. Louis up the three thousand-miles of current,
carrying vast stores of merchandise for the gold camps and trading
posts in the Montana Territory.
Handsome river steamers plied back and forth through this unbroken
wilderness. The difficulties and dangers incident to a passage up
or down the river were many. Often boats were held up for days by
enormous herds of buffalo crossing the river in their migrations
north or south. Indian attacks were frequent and many passengers
and steamer hands were killed when the current carried boats too
close to shore. Navigation on the Missouri was, in fact, more difficult
than on any other river used by steam craft.
The last commercial steamboat left Fort Benton on a down-stream
trip in 1890.