Looking for a road trip worthy of a few hours in a car to one of the farthest corners of Montana?
Ekalaka may have the coolest museum you’ve never seen. And bring along a picnic lunch to eat among the effusion of fanciful rock formations in nearby Medicine Rocks State Park.
Carter County Museum, the first chartered county museum in the state, may be small, but it has big ambitions and one of only a handful of mounted Anatotitan copei.
For anyone who is not a grade-school boy or a paleontologist, an Anatotitan copei is a duck-billed dinosaur that lived in the marshlands of southeastern Montana 75 million years ago. Only five of its kind have been found in the United States.
People have been digging dinosaurs in Carter County almost since the first settlers arrived in the sprawling ranch county in the 1870s. Some of the biggest names in paleontology have searched for fossils on landscape that was once a subtropical delta of an inland sea.
Many of the premier natural history museums in the world boast dinosaurs and other fossils drug from the Hell Creek formation, a geologic strata formed in the last days of the dinosaurs. Many more fossils are crowded on the shelves of the Ekalaka museum.
On display in the museum is the partially exposed skull of a triceratops found 20 miles northwest of nearby Baker; the well-preserved skeleton of Adocis, a turtle from the Cretaceous period found 30 miles away; a cast of dinosaur eggs found in the Gobi Desert; and a cast of a rare Nodosaur armored dinosaur found southwest of Ekalaka.
The museum also has representatives of the giants that roamed on the fringes of the last ice age, including the massive skull of an extinct bison.
Another area of the museum is dedicated to the native peoples who have inhabited this part of Montana for thousands of years.
The museum should be especially lively this year. A group of Montana State University students will spend all or part of the summer there working to take the museum to the next level. Each student has a specialty he or she will use to redesign museum exhibits, expand its field research station and organize and catalog its treasures.
They’re cooking up a “Dino-Shindig” for July 26 and 27, recruiting paleontologists and other experts doing research in Carter County to share what they are discovering with locals and visitors.
Museum hours starting April 1 are weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Weekend hours are 1 to 5 p.m. During winter, the museum is open Tuesday through Friday.
Contact the Carter County Museum, 306 N. Main St. in Ekalaka, at 406-775-6886.