History of Lahood Park

 

History of LaHood Park

Historic LaHood Park, located on the scenic Jefferson River, was established in 1928. The town of Lahood started as a stopping point for travelers and freighters that traveled between Butte and the Madison River. The town is the namesake of Shadan LaHood, a Lebanese immigrant who came to Montana in 1902. From 1902 to 1919, he traveled between Butte, Dillon, Missoula and Madison County in a covered wagon canvassing for a dry goods firm. In 1909, he and his wife opened a  general merchandise store at Jefferson Island. He built a park there that bears his name.
During the pioneer days LaHood Park witnessed many interesting historical events. The Lewis & Clark Expedition camped here the first week of August in the year 1805.

During the 1930's LaHood Park was home to the Civil Conservation Corp under the leadership of President Roosevelt. The 350 CCC men were part of a team that developed Yellowstone Park and built roads and bridges, among other accomplishments.
The Lewis & Clark Caverns, a state park located just 4 miles down the road, used to be called the Morrison Caves. LaHood Park served as the caverns headquarters and tickets to tour the caves were once purchased at the old hotel, which was lost in a fire in 2001.

Nearby Highway marker sign reads: LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION. On August 1, 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped at a point 200 yards west from this spot on the south bank of the river facing the mouth of the creek which flows into the river from the north. Meriwether Lewis and three others, on a scouting expedition in the hope of finding Sacajawea's people, had crossed the mountains to the northeast of here and coming down the North Boulder Valley, had reached here at 2:00 PM. They found a herd of elk grazing in the park here and killed two of them. After taking time out for an elk steak lunch, they headed on upstream leaving the two elk on the bank of the river for the expedition's dinner.

Captain Clark, with the expedition, reached here late in the evening after a strenuous day spent in snaking the boats up the canyon rapids by means of a long rawhide tow line which had broken in the rapids immediately below here with near calamitous results. RAt sight of the two elk, the hungry men called it a day and pitched camp. Reuben and Jo Fields went on a short hunt up the creek and killed five deer in the willow breaks which caused the stream to be named Field's creek, now known as North Boulder. A large brown bear was seen on the south side of the river. Clark shot a big horn sheep in the canyon and Lewis shot two antelope a short distance up stream. Near camp was seen the first Maximilan Jay known to science. The temperature at sunrise on August 2 was fifty degrees above zero.

Another Highway marker reads: LAHOOD PARK. In August 840, Pierre Jean De Smet, a Catholic missionary of Belgian birth, camped near the  mouth of the Boulder River with the Salish Indians and celebrated the holy sacrifice of the Mass. Father De Smet left the Indians soon after to go to St. Louis. He returned the following year and established the original St. Mary's Mission in the Bitter Root Valley, hereditary home of the Salish. Fearless and zealous, his many experiences during the pioneer days have been chronicled and form a most interesting chapter in the frontier annals of Montana.

Nearly ninety years later, in 1928, Shadan "Dan" LaHood built a hotel, gas station, and auto camp here to take advantage of tourist traffic on the newly opened highway through the Jefferson River Canyon. Five years after building the hotel, he added several motel units and a roadside cafe to his operation. A tireless supporter of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal relief programs, , LaHood donated the land adjacent to the hotel for a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in the 1930s. The boys based at the CCC camp improved access to and within Lewis and Clark Caverns, making it one of Montana's premier attractions. LaHood's hotel burned to the ground in 2001.