Big Hole National Battlefield

Stand on the site that commemorates a bloody battle in the Nez Perce War and learn about what took place in the gently sloping riverside meadows.

Big Hole National Battlefield is a reserved area in Beaverhead County, its peaceful meadows and pine woods contrasting against the bloodshed that history left here. On Aug. 9, 1877, the silence of dawn in the meadow was broken by gunshots firing into a camp of Nez Perce by U.S. military forces. By the end of the siege the next day, nearly 90 Nez Perce were killed, as well as 31 soldiers and non-combatants. Discover the history of this nationally significant site through presentations, a museum and self-guided walking trails.

Begin your visit to the Big Hole National Battlefield at the reserve’s visitor center. This informative facility overlooks the historic battlefield and its museum offers an insight into the history of the site, as well as the political and cultural elements involved in the battle. Watch a 26-minute video that details some of the facts about the U.S. government policy on American Indian reservations and the 750 non-treaty Nez Perce who set up camp here in 1877, hoping to flee to Canada after enduring months of conflict.

Explore the museum to see a thought-provoking collection of photographs and personal items of those who were affected by the battles in the Nez Perce War. In the warmer months, embark on a self-guided walking tour around the site. Foot trails connect to the Nez Perce Camp, the Siege Area and the Howitzer Capture site. These walks take approximately an hour. In summer, join a ranger-lead program to learn more about each site.

Banking into a wooded ridge, the reserve is scenic in all seasons. See wildflowers in spring or the golden sweep of dry grasses in summer. The tipi frames of the Nez Perce camp are a harrowing reminder of the bloody siege that took place at the site.

Big Hole National Battlefield is free to visit and located in West Wisdom, Montana. It is a scenic 2-hour drive though the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest from Butte. The Battlefield Visitor Center is open daily year-round, except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. The foot trails in the battlefield may be closed in the cooler months, but otherwise are accessible between sunrise and sunset.

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