Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front is a special place, where the plains meet the mountains abruptly, the last stronghold of the Grizzly Bear on the plains of North America. “The Front” makes up the eastern edge of the 3-million acre Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, an area of great scenic and natural beauty, chock full of wildlife and nearly untouched by tourists due to its proximity to the more popular Glacier National Park. Geologically speaking, the Rocky Mountain Front stretches over 200 miles from its southern end near Helena north along the “Front” proper, northward up the Lewis Range of Glacier National Park and into southern Alberta. This eastern escarpment of the Rockies along this stretch represents the most intact area of geological evidence of an event known as the Sevier orogeny, a major mountain-building event between 50-140 million years ago. While the remnants of this event stretch from Canada to Mexico, this portion, also known as the Lewis Overthrust is not only the best geologically preserved area of the Sevier orogeny, it is also one of the least human-inhabited parts. America’s second largest elk herd (behind the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming) lives along the Rocky Mountain Front, as does Montana’s largest population of bighorn sheep. The area also boasts several wolf packs, a large wolverine population and numerous other animals large and small from both mountain and prairie ecosystems.
In late 2014, the U.S. Congress passed the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, which added significant portions of the Lewis and Clark National Forest to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex which were not designated wilderness before, as well as setting aside over 200,000 acres of land in the area as the newly formed Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Management Area, protecting the area from mining and oil extraction. Seen in the picture are two mountains known as The Old Man of The Hills (left) and the Walling Reef (right). This portion of the Rocky Mountain Front basically consists of a series of towering walls directly above the prairie. The Walling Reef itself stretches 4 miles north to south, consists of two walls over 1,000 feet high staggered on top of one another and even holds a small bench lake atop the lower wall.