Slaughter River

The Merriweather Lewis and William Clark led expedition came upon and camped alongside Slaughter River on May 29, 1805. Located on the Upper Missouri River in what is now Arrow Creek, Montana, the Slaughter River is a High Potential Historic Site on the Lewis and Clark Trail. Upon arriving to the campsite, the most noticeable part of the landscape was a pile of buffalo carcasses at the bottom of the cliffs located on the River.

While at the camp Merriweather Lewis took note of the scene, “today we passed on the Stard. side the remains of a vast many mangled carcases of Buffalow… the water appeared to have washed away a part if this immense pile.” The Corps of Discovery named the river after an assumed “buffalo jump” used often by Native Americans as a means of hunting bison and buffalo in large quantities for the tribe, thus offering impressive amounts of meats. In actuality, the buffalo had drowned when spring ice broke, and as they washed up onto the bank of the river and piled up on each other.

Today, it is highly unlikely to find any evidence of a buffalo jump or a pile of bison or buffalo equivalent to what the Corps of Discovery happened upon back in 1805. Instead, visitors will be met by an idyllic riverbank and cliff scene. At an elevation of 2,500 feet and a recreation area that encompasses 42 acres, the site is accessible by hunting or fishing boat. The recreation center permits tent camping and hosts fire rings, vault toilets, and one 3-sided log shelter. While the expedition’s experience may not have been ideal, there is no doubt that Slaughter River (Arrow Creek) boasts serene views for today’s visitors.

Contact Information

Slaughter River
Reservations and Information:
(406) 622-4000

Big Sandy, Montana 59520, United States

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Virtually Explore The Slaughter River

Click and drag 360° image to pan around or click forward arrow to travel down the Slaughter River Landmark

On May 31, 1805, Lewis and Clark proceeded their journey through the Missouri Breaks.

Other Information

  • Seasons Open

    Open all seasons
  • Prices and Fees

    Access to Slaughter River along the Lewis and Clark Trail is free of charge
  • Accessibility

    Public access to the Upper Missouri River and the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is remote and limited, so you need to plan ahead and be prepared for inclimate weather and difficult travel conditions. Private landowners along the river and within the uplands are able to enter the river and private parcels from their own land, but visitors must use the developed public access sites. Principal river launch points are: Fort Benton Canoe Launch (mile 0), Fort Benton Motorboat Launch (mile 1), Wood Bottom (mile 20.3), Coal Banks Landing (mile 41.5), Judith Landing (mile 88.5), and James Kipp Recreation Area (mile 149). Additional launch opportunities at Virgelle Ferry (mile 39.1) and McClelland (or Stafford) Ferry (mile 101.8) make possible trips of various lengths. Under the Montana Stream Access Law, the public may use rivers and streams for recreational purposes up to the ordinary high-water marks. Although the law gives recreationists the right to use rivers and streams for water-related recreation, it does not allow them to enter posted lands bordering those streams or to cross private lands to gain access to streams. Complete rules are available at any Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office or