The Mullan Road

Fort Benton
      The Birthplace of MontanaTM





Welcome to the Eastern Terminus of the Mullan Road

Originating in Fort Benton, Montana, The Mullan Road was the first wagon road to cross the Rocky Mountains to the Inland of the Pacific Northwest. It was built by US Army Lieut. John Mullan between the spring of 1859 and summer 1860. It led from Fort Benton, Montana, the navigational head of the Missouri River (and once farthest inland port in the world) to Fort Walla Walla, Washington Territory, near the Columbia River. The road approximately followed the path of modern-day Interstate 15 and Interstate 90 through what is now the states of Montana, Idaho and Washington.

Route of the Mullan Road
From the origin at Fort Benton, Montana, the Mullan Road proceeded: West from Fort Benton, Montana Passing North of Great Falls, Montana Dropping south to cross the continental divide west of Helena, Montana (following a path through Mullan Pass, immediately north of that now traveled by U.S. Route 12) Along the Clark Fork River, near the ghost town of Bearmouth, Montana Just west of Garrison, Montana, it joined the route of present-day Interstate 90 (similar to the U.S. Route 12 transition to join Interstate 90 today) It remained with the Interstate 90 route as it passed Missoula proceeding west through Montana. The Mullan Road through the Missoula Valley fostered rapid growth for the burgeoning city, and allowed the U.S. Army to establish Fort Missoula there in 1877. The road then crossed



The Mullan Road

the border into Idaho near Mullan, Idaho (followed by the later Interstate 90). The highest elevation of the road is a second Mullan Pass at 5168 feet (1575 m), which lies about 7 miles (10 km) east of Mullan, Idaho on the Idaho-Montana border. From the middle of the Idaho crossing, the road deviates from present-day major roads.  The Mullan Road went southwesterly in Idaho to pass south of Lake Coeur d'Alene The road then passed into Washington some distance south of Spokane, Washington From there, the Mullan Road passed through the Palouse country and then the scablands of eastern Washington. It passed through Benge, Washington. The Benge section of the road was completed May 22, 1861; the wagon ruts were still visible in 2008 just northeast of town at the site of the First Benge School. South of Benge, there is a stretch of the former road still labeled 'Mullan Road'. This gravel section of the Mullan Road travels southwesterly until it meets Washington State Route 26 near Washtucna, Washington. The portion of Mullan Road south of SR 26 in Washington, which follows the course of the Palouse River as it descends to the Snake River, has been reverted to grazing and is not accessible to the public. After crossing the Snake River near the confluence with the Palouse River, the Mullan Road continues south to its terminus at Fort Walla Walla near Walla Walla, Washington.

* Mullan Road: On Line Resources *  Additional information on the Mullan Road available at this link.

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