Hog Heaven Muzzleloaders
Nearly two hundred years later, hundreds of modern Americans love to re-enact the life and times of the 19th century mountain men.
One such group is the Hog Heaven Muzzleloaders, from Moscow, Idaho. (Moscow was once called Hog Heaven.) They dress up in period costume and pride themselves on their precise knowledge of that by-gone era. Idaho Public Television used the Hog Heaven Muzzleloaders to help re-create scenes for the program, "Echoes of a Bitter Crossing: Lewis & Clark in Idaho."
Even though Lewis and Clark did not find a continuous water route to the west, they did find a wealth of fur bearing animals. This discovery was the information needed to jump-start the fur trade era from 1810 to 1840. General William H. Ashley, an early fur trader advertised in the Missouri Gazette, "Wanted 100 enterprising young men to ascend the Missouri River to its source and there to be engaged in trapping and to stay in the mountains from one to three years.”
During the winter months when the snow was heavy and the streams froze over, the men either went into a friendly Indian village or established a brigade winter camp. Some of the men stayed in the lower levels of the mountains in makeshift lean-tos, much like this one. Dave Benson, Mike McCoy, and Vern Illi all members of the Hogheaven Muzzleloading Club have reenacted the camp.
The lean-tos were constructed with lodge poles, pine boughs and buffalo hides. The snow covered the setup, turning it into a temporary, man-made cave. They did not build a fire in the lean-to, because the heat would rise and melt the snow, getting everything inside wet.
Belt Creek flows north into the Missouri River above the Great Falls in Montana. This is the creek the Corps of Discovery dragged their dugouts up until they were able to break out into the plain. They constructed trucks (axles and wheels out of Cottonwood trees) and hauled the dugouts overland to the lower Missouri River below the Great Falls.
Learn more about the Hog Heaven Muzzleloaders at their website.