MSU Extension- Judith Basin County
Judith Basin County is located in central Montana in a fertile basin between the Highwoods,
Big Snowies, and Little Belt mountains. The county population is 2,016 people. The
principal communities are Stanford (county seat located about 65 miles east of Great
Falls), Hobson and Geyser. Numerous other small communities make up the county.
Judith Basin Countyâ€™s economy is based on agriculture. The major components of this
industry include livestock, small grains and forage production. The county ranks
14th in Montana for beef cattle numbers, 11th in winter wheat production, 16th in
barley production, 27th for spring wheat production, 9th for alfalfa hay production,
and 27th for other hay production. Timber and mining enterprises take place on a
small scale. The MSU Central Ag Research Center is located in the county. The Judith
Basin 4-H programs consist of 73 youth members and 23 volunteer leaders in four organized
clubs. The county offers a variety of recreational opportunities, which include hiking,
hunting, fishing, camping, snowmobiling and skiing. A major ski area is about 45
minutes from Stanford. The Judith Basin was the home of the legendary western artist
Charlie Russell. Many of his paintings were scenes captured by the artist between
Lewistown and Great Falls.
The Judith Basin is nestled in the heart of the state known as the Last Best Place,
the basin truly fits the classic Montana description of "high, wide and handsome."
Island mountain ranges such as the Highwoods and the Snowies surround a sea of grass
and wheat making it easy to enjoy the rich bounty of this land.
The legendary Western artist Charlie Russell learned the ways of the cowboy and mountain
man here in the basin, and many of his most famous paintings were inspired by the
landscape and drama that unfolded here as the West was settled. Highway 87 between
Great Falls and Lewistown is known as the Charlie Russell Trail. Square Butte, Stanford,
Utica and the Judith River country are all scenes captured in Russellâ€™s art.
Stanford and nearby Utica have several museums of interest. Recreation opportunities
abound in the nearby Lewis and Clark National Forest, Judith River Wildlife Management
Area and Ackley Lake State Park. The Judith River Wildlife Management Area, at the
edge of the Little Belt Mountains is a good place to view large elk herds in late
fall and winter. Raynesford is an agriculturally rich area. The homesteading boom
from 1908 to 1915 and the extension of the Great Northern Railroad played an important
role in the development of this area. Moccasin also began as a homestead community.
In 1908 the Montana State legislature created the Central Montana Agriculture Research
Center, 3 miles east of Moccasin. The purpose of the center was to teach dry land
farming techniques to the newly arrived homesteaders. Even after the homesteaders
bust, the center went on to develop machinery and new crops, improving the area's
wheat yields. Hobson was named for an early-day rancher, S. S. Hobson. He owned the
Campbell and Clendenan ranches and later became a state senator. The Big Snowy Mountains
lie south of this agricultural community. There are camping and hiking opportunities
at Crystal Lake, 20 miles southeast of Hobson. Many Finnish homesteaders settled
in the Geyser area at the turn of the century. They had been coal miners in the Belt
area but were lured to Geyser by free land offers. In earlier days, it was a stagecoach-stopping
place on the trail from Great Falls to Lewistown. In 1920, Geyser became a rail line
station, when the old town was moved to its existing site.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Montana State University and the Montana
State University Extension Service prohibit discrimination in all of their programs
and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age,
disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital and family status.
Issued in furtherance of cooperative extension work in agriculture and home economics,
acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Jeff Bader, Director of Extension, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717.
MSUE educational programs are open to the public regardless of race, color, religion,
sex, sexual orientation, national origin or citizenship status, age, disability or
veterans status, and that MSUE provides, upon request, reasonable accommodations to