No part of the Clark Fork / Flathead River area in Sanders County contained ice age glaciers, but glacial features are visible in Sanders County. Most of the rocks in NW Montana are thick sections of Precambrian mudstone, sandstone, & limestone known as Belt Rock . Belt Rock accumulated as deposits of mud, sand, & lime mud between 1500-800 million years ago Belt Rock has blue-green algae fossil remains. Many Precambrian sedimentary formations consist of red & green mudstones. The red mudstones contain iron oxides, whereas the green mudstone color is from silicate minerals that contain iron in its more reduced ferrous state.
When David Thompson entered modern day Sanders County, Montana in 1809, he followed a well-used road. He called this route the Saleesh Road to the Buffalo. It was a major aboriginal road system in use for hundreds of years before the first Europeans ever reached the west side of the Northern Rockies. Located along today’s Clark Fork, Flathead and Jocko Rivers, the road was used by travelers moving east and west along these river corridors.
This road, one of many routes, was developed in part by buffalo hunters from west of the Rocky Mountains who arduously made their way over the Continental Divide to the northern Great Plains to secure meat and robes. These hunting and often fighting pilgrimages were called, in the parlance of the nineteenth century, going to buffalo.
The Road to the Buffalo route through Sanders County was compiled using information gathered from historic maps and journals plus on-the-ground research using a compass and a GPS instrument. A proposal to mark the route was presented to the Sanders County Commissioners in February 2010 when the Commissioners conducted an informal request for project ideas. They elected to mark this historic road as one of their Community Transportation Enhancement Projects (CTEP). The intent of the project is to provide travelers an historical and cultural tour through Sanders County.