Lay of the Land
The Centennial Valley
Remote and undeveloped, the Centennial Valley is the definition of Big Country. Located two hours due west of Yellowstone National Park and just north of the Continental Divide along the Idaho-Montana border, the Centennial Valley is a place of sweeping grasslands, expansive wetlands, and dramatic mountain ranges. Neighboring the Red Rock Lake Wildlife Refuge and the Centennial Sandhills Preserve, and flanked by the Centennial and Gravelly mountains, the valley feels uniquely wild.
Home to the J Bar L’s summer headquarters, the Centennial Valley hasn't changed much in the last 100 years. With no towns, gas stations, subdivisions, or paved roads, the valley offers you the opportunity to experience the grandeur of untamed, open country. At 620-square-miles––more than four times the size of Denver––and with fewer than 20 year-round residents, the Centennial Valley still remembers how to be quiet. Stars burn brighter here, and mountains loom large. Once a Native American hunting ground, the Centennial Valley still serves as a critical migration corridor for the Northern Rockies. The Valley is home to grizzlies, wolves, elk, pronghorn, hundreds of bird species, and the countless other magnificent wildlife that draw millions of visitors to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem each year. These original inhabitants are often visible from the front porch of our homesteads, freckling the sagebrush prairie or watering at the Red Rock River.
The Centennial was settled in the late 19th century by a handful of cattle-ranching families and ranching remains at the heart of the Centennial’s community and culture. Relics of these original homesteaders remain––collapsing log cabins and weathered barns reminding of us the valley’s history of labor and ambition. A place defined by hard work, far horizons, and boundless wilderness, the Centennial Valley epitomizes Montana's natural grandeur and rich history.
Lying at the confluence of the Beaverhead, Ruby, and Big Hole Rivers, the town of Twin Bridges draws fly fishermen and women from across the country to its famed blue ribbon waters. Located 1 ½ hours southwest of Bozeman and 2 hours northwest of Yellowstone National Park, our Twin Bridges Fishing Cabin on the J Bar L’s winter ranch headquarters offers a wealth of recreational opportunities in a small town setting. With the Pioneer and Ruby Mountains at your back, Twin Bridges, population 382, is a place where the humility of small town life meets the natural opulence of Montana’s backcountry. Cottonwoods line open pastures and follow the carved paths of the area’s wending rivers and creeks, extending far beyond the town’s boundaries. Trout swim headstrong and the antelope graze among the cattle.
Twin Bridges has always been a site of movement and migration. Native peoples relied on the well-worn trails that crisscrossed the region and, in 1805, the area was visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. When the area was later settled by white homesteaders, it was for the purpose of overwintering stock. For the past 150 years, Twin Bridges has been stitched into the cyclical movement of the region’s cattle––home again once the weather cools and grasses go dormant. The J Bar L follows this same practiced migration, moving the cattle from summer pasture in the Centennial Valley to its winter ranch.
Named for the two bridges erected over the Big Hole and Beaverhead Rivers with mountain-cut logs, Twin Bridges attests to the earnest labor and deep roots that have continued to tether the community to this land. Ranchers work these lands with the knowledge of those that came before, letting their stock out to graze the lush pastures––thankful for it’s fodder, free flowing water, and open skies. A quintessential Montana town, visitors can revel in Twin Bridges’ cultural heritage while casting off into its clear rivers.