By Anne Marie Mistretta EBS Contributor

Ultimately, it was the railroad that changed the face of the Gallatin Canyon forever, as Northern Pacific’s hunger for railroad tie timber spawned a widened path along the Gallatin River.

Once the railroad rumbled through Bozeman, its thirst for passengers launched a campaign to transport visitors to the newly established Yellowstone National Park. The upgraded river road served to move logs north and tourists south.

As early as 1906, ranchers along the Gallatin supplemented their finances by enticing Yellowstone visitors to extend their vacation at a “dude ranch.” Tom Michener, who ranched near the current Conoco gas station, and Sam Wilson, owner of the Buffalo Horn Ranch (now the 320 Guest Ranch), collaborated to regulate rates.

For $12 a week—plus $6 a week for a horse—vacationers could escape urban stress by renting a cabin and perhaps donning chaps and tackling ranch chores.

Many of the area’s current resorts opened their doors to tourists in the early 1900s. The Dew Drop Inn became the Half Way Inn in 1919 and is now Rainbow Ranch. Lone Mountain Ranch, previously known as the B Bar K, started as a retreat in 1926.

The area’s natural resources and unique geological features lured residents and visitors alike into streams and onto trails, and they still do. The overnight pack trip into the wilderness, often the highlight of a “dude’s” vacation, remains popular today.

Whether fishing the pristine Gallatin River or hiking and riding in the remote forests, tourists could return to their families and colleagues with stories about their vacation in Montana.

The Historic Crail Ranch Photo Archives provide a glimpse of tourism over a century ago. Today, through a 100-year lens, we find that Big Sky’s attractiveness remains much the same and we continue to rediscover satisfaction in combining physical exertion with an invigorating environment.

Trick riding was popular in the early 1900s, introduced by Russian Cossack immigrants. Several friends show off their balance outside the gates of the B Bar K, which is now called Lone Mountain Ranch.

Trick riding was popular in the early 1900s, introduced by Russian Cossack immigrants. Several friends show off their balance outside the gates of the B Bar K, which is now called Lone Mountain Ranch.

A Crail friend gazes at the mountaintops from her horse in this 1930s photo. Modern research informs us that time spent in nature enhances our creativity and re-energizes us.

A Crail friend gazes at the mountaintops from her horse in this 1930s photo. Modern research informs us that time spent in nature enhances our creativity and re-energizes us.

Lilian Crail (center) and friends from Chicago prepare to tour Yellowstone National Park in a vintage Ford camper, outfitted with roll-up canvas sides. By 1916, more than 35,000 visitors entered the park annually, compared to 4 million-plus in 2015. For the first 40 years after Yellowstone was designated the nation’s first national park, most visitors arrived via train and then stagecoach. In 1916, more than 1,000 automobiles traveled into the park lacking paved roads.

Lilian Crail (center) and friends from Chicago prepare to tour Yellowstone National Park in a vintage Ford camper, outfitted with roll-up canvas sides. By 1916, more than 35,000 visitors entered the park annually, compared to 4 million-plus in 2015. For the first 40 years after Yellowstone was designated the nation’s first national park, most visitors arrived via train and then stagecoach. In 1916, more than 1,000 automobiles traveled into the park lacking paved roads.

A friend of Lilian Crail visiting from Chicago casts a line into the Gallatin River below Jack Smith Bridge. Named for a homesteader who ranched along the Gallatin, this area of the stream approximately 1 mile north of Big Sky remains a popular fishing hole today.

A friend of Lilian Crail visiting from Chicago casts a line into the Gallatin River below Jack Smith Bridge. Named for a homesteader who ranched along the Gallatin, this area of the stream approximately 1 mile north of Big Sky remains a popular fishing hole today.

Eugene Crail and his wife Alice pose perilously close to a smoldering geyser in Yellowstone National Park. The park eventually constructed more than 14 miles of boardwalks to preserve thermal features and protect tourists.

Eugene Crail and his wife Alice pose perilously close to a smoldering geyser in Yellowstone National Park. The park eventually constructed more than 14 miles of boardwalks to preserve thermal features and protect tourists.