top of page

Bridger Canyon History

As compiled by George Havens in 2006

Bridger Canyon was named for Jim Bridger.  100 million years ago; Bridger Canyon was an inland sea.

1804-1881: Jim Bridger "Old Gabe" was without equal as mountain man, guide, trapper, scout, frontiersman, trader. 

1840: Last rendezvous of the mountain men. Bridger took his 3rd Indian wife, a Shoshone.

1856: Kit Carson and Jim Bridger visit Bridger Canyon hunting for beaver.

July 1864: Jim Bridger took first wagon train along Bridger Cut-off Trail through our canyon.

September 1864: Bridger led second train through canyon. Bridger Cut-off Trail not used after 1864. As US Army scout: Jim Bridger was paid $5 a day, Jim Bridger never got lost, Indians never surprised him, he was never wrong about the way to go. 

1867-1887: Fort Ellis in operation: 13th US Infantry, 2nd Regiment, US Cavalry. 

1867: Soldiers from Ft. Ellis built a sawmill and road 16 miles up Bridger Canyon. 

Before 1870: Canyon undisturbed except for Indian raiding parties on their escape route from hunting in Gallatin Valley. 

1870s & 1880s: German immigrants arrived in canyon, including the Papke family. 

1870s: Bangtail Ridge named by Robert Stevens who 'banged' or squared his horses' tails.

1885: David Christie moved here from Minnesota. 

1878: Horse-stealing Indians fight with cowboys at Battle Ridge. One man shot. 

1893: US Govt bought Davies Spring on Bridger Creek for fish hatchery. 

1886: Upper Bridger School - log cabin on Jackson Creek Road. 

1896: Lower Bridger School built at Kelly Canyon and Bridger Canyon Roads. Classes met only 4 months per year. 

1900: Upper Bridger School - frame building. 

1906: White frame church built on Jackson Creek Road. Services were held on Sunday afternoon. 

1909: Telephone service initiated 

1910: US Mail service launched 

1912: Community held its first annual Bridger Canyon Picnic. 

October 1915: The famous "M" at the end of the Bridger Range was created. 

1924: Happy Day Club becomes Bridger Canyon Women's Club. 

Jan. 10, 1938: Northwest plane crashed near Flaming Arrow Ranch. Ten people died. First in MT history. 


August 25, 1938: A rockslide covered Standard Construction Company equipment.  The incident occurred in Bridger Canyon, just beyond the Fish Hatchery. At that time, Standard Construction Company was operated by Roy Malsor.

May 1948: Rankin & Widmer flew over the Bridgers and found the site for Bridger Bowl. 

1949: Electrical service was extended up the canyon to Sedan. Brackett Creek was named for Col. Brackett, commander at Fort Ellis. 

1954: Formation of group to develop the Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Tow tickets at Bridger Bowl Ski Area were $2 a day. Tow was 2600-ft rope. 

1971: Zoning resolution for Bridger Canyon adopted by County Planning & Zoning Board. 

September 1976: Landmark Maiden Rock at south end of canyon was blasted down by road crews. 

1978-1980: Volunteer fire department started. 1st Chief: George Ripley, 2nd Chief: Arnie Jacobs 

1985: Jane Newhall sells 800-acre ranch to Ken Lundberg for Tepee Ridge homes. 

2000: Bridger Canyon enters new millennium as Montana's "first best place" to live. 

2001: Bridger Canyon fire threatens homes, burns hundreds of acres, requires 15 fire companies, hotshot crews, helicopters

Bridger Canyon Women's Club

The Bridger Canyon ladies were first organized in 1917 as a Red Cross Chapter and served in that capacity for five years.

In 1922, the women became the "Happy Day Club" and adopted the constitution and by-laws considered to be the first for the present Bridger Canyon Women's Club. Their objective was for "up building of the community and the relief of the sick and distressed."

The Happy Day Club became the "Bridger Canyon Home Demonstration Club" in 1958, and as such, performed services in civil defense and many charitable causes until 1964, when they terminated their Home Demonstration Club affiliation.

From 1978 to 1981, the Bridger Canyon Women's Club was part of the Federated Women's Clubs, but voted to operate independently and has continued in that manner with worthwhile projects and goals for the improvement of life in Bridger Canyon. 

bottom of page