The Reclamation Project that Changed History
In the semiarid Northern Great Plains scarcity of water dictated land use and settlement. The Yellowstone River Valley in south central Montana supplied drinking water and a means of transportation for thousands of years. Lewis and Clark traveled down the river on July 25, 1806 through what would become the Huntley Irrigation Project . Other guides and explorers would travel through this area 70 years later, just before steamboats started exploring the area. Shortly after the arrival of steamboats , the railroads came through Billings Montana. The potential of the Huntley Project area was recognized by Fredrick Billings who started a conversation with government officials. The US government had been working on plans to help settle certain areas of the United States. In 1902 the Reclamation Act was passed to help with settlement of land. The US government purchased the land from the local Crow Tribe and started construction on the Huntley Irrigation Project, an area about 27 miles long and 4 miles wide. The area was planned out on paper noting the placement of towns, schools and irrigation routs. In 1907 the gates of the Huntley Project Irrigation canal were opened. Farm units were 40 acres each. A drawing was set up on June 26, 1907 for the 582 farm units in the Huntley Irrigation Project. The Huntley Irrigation Project became known as the Huntley Project consisting of several small towns. A drought around 1910 forced many settlers to abandon their claims. Other families stayed and lived out their pioneer dreams. Many of the pioneer families have relatives that have lived in the same area for over 100 years. The canal behind the museum is the orginal canal still going strong prodviding life giving water to grow crops today.