Bears Paw Mountains

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Bears Paw Mountains
Bears Paw Mountains as seen from near Virgelle, Montana
Highest point
PeakBaldy Mountain
Elevation6,916 ft (2,108 m) [1]
Little Belts.PNG
CountryUnited States
Range coordinates48°12.5′N 109°31.05′W / 48.2083°N 109.51750°W / 48.2083; -109.51750Coordinates: 48°12.5′N 109°31.05′W / 48.2083°N 109.51750°W / 48.2083; -109.51750
Age of rockLate Cretaceous

The Bears Paw Mountains (Bear Paw Mountains, Bear's Paw Mountains or Bearpaw Mountains)[2] are an insular-montane island range in North-Central Montana, USA, located approximately 10 miles south of Havre, Montana. Baldy Mountain, which rises 6,916 feet (2,108 m) above sea level, is the highest peak in the range.

The Bears Paw Mountains extend in a 45-mile arc between the Missouri River and Rocky Boy Indian Reservation south of Havre.

While highway signs designate the range as the Bears Paw Mountains, historically, the names Bearpaw Mountains and Bear Paw Mountains also have been used, including on early state maps of the region. The U.S. Geological Survey continues to use Bearpaw Mountains on publications.


McCann Butte in the Bearpaws, view to the west across glacial moraine. 1920 USGS photograph.
Bearpaw Mountains. View south near Clear Creek, Blaine County, Montana. July 31, 1920.

The Cretaceous Bearpaw Formation outcrops in these mountains, and is named for the range.

Native American legend[edit]

Native oral history ties the name to a lone hunter in search of deer to feed his clan. He killed a deer but, while returning to the prairie, encountered a bear. The bear held the hunter to the ground, and the hunter appealed to the Great Spirit to release him. The Great Spirit filled the heavens with lightning and thunder, striking the bear dead and severing its paw to release the hunter. Looking at Box Elder Butte, one can see the paw, and Centennial Mountain to the south resembles a reclining bear.[3]

Locals refer to the range as the Bearpaws[4] (Assiniboine: Waną́be;[5] Apsáalooke: Daxpitcheeischikáate, "Bear's little hand"[6]).

Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce surrendered to Col. Nelson Miles in the foothills of the Bear's Paw Mountains in October 1877 after the Battle of Bear Paw.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Baldy Mountain". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  2. ^ "Bears Paw Mountains". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  3. ^ "An Island on the Plains: the Bears Paw Mountains" (PDF). Montana Department of Transportation. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 20, 2010.
  4. ^ Montana Place Names Companion Website Aarstad, Rich, Ellie Arguimbau, Ellen Baumler, Charlene Porsild, and Brian Shovers. Montana Place Names from Alzada to Zortman. Montana Historical Society Press
  5. ^ "AISRI Dictionary Database Search--prototype version. Assiniboine. "Montana"". Retrieved 2012-05-26.
  6. ^ "Apsáalooke Place Names Database". Little Big Horn College Library. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  7. ^ Greene, Jerome A. (2000). "13". Nez Perce Summer 1877: The U.S. Army and the Nee-Me-Poo Crisis. Helena, MT: Montana Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-917298-68-3.

External links[edit]