• The Bull River Cabin. Photo by Aaron Theisen

    Granny Gordon: Rough Rider on the Bull River

    Story and photos by Aaron Theisen


    A citizenry suspicious of Washington outsiders.

    Accusations of government land grabs.

    Federal servants tasked with presenting an unpopular policy to the public.

    The creation of Montana’s National Forest lands at the turn of the 20th Century echoes throughout public-lands debates a century hence.

    In 1906, one year after its creation, the U.S. Forest Service established the Kootenai Forest Reserve, encompassing timber lands in the Kootenai River drainage of far northwest Montana. From Trout Creek to Troy arose public opposition to the Forest Reserve boundaries.

    The frontier had been closed 10 years earlier, and settlers had resorted to squatting on abandoned rail lines, Indian territory and old mine operations. The creation of Forest Reserves struck some as a move by the federal government to lock up potential agricultural land from settlement.

    Not aiding matters is that most of the fledgling Forest Service’s new hires were Ivy League-bred Easterners, graduates from Yale University’s then-novel forestry program, rather than longtime residents.

    Locals dubbed them “instant rangers”.

    “Most of the rangers weren’t local, and when you look at it from a public relations standpoint, it may not have been the best approach,” said Rachel Reckin, zoned district archaelogist for the Three Rivers and Cabinets Ranger Districts of the Forest Service.


    Directions to the Bull River Guard Station 

    From Highway 200 turn onto Highway 56 follow this highway for approximately 8 miles and turn right onto the East Fork Bull River Road 407. Follow Road 407 about 1.5 miles to the junction with Road 2278 and stay to the right, follow this road for approximately 0.5 miles to the Guard Station.

    The Bull River Guard Station was built in 1908 as the Ranger’s house and office. This structure was a primary ranger station from 1908 to 1920, surviving the 1910 fire. The cabin was home to Granville “Granny” Gordon, his wife and three daughters. The cabin is a two story building, containing 700 square feet. It is equipped with period furniture including three full beds and two single beds including mattresses. It has a sitting room with chairs, a kitchen and dining room with a hutch, table and chairs, and electric range. It is heated with a forced air electric furnace, and contains cleaning supplies.

    The cabin is available for rent year-round.

    It can be reserved by calling 1-877-444-6777 or visiting www.recreation.gov. The cabin rents for $55 a day with a seven day stay limit.


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