The Great Northern

Following US‑2 through wide-open spaces is guaranteed to bring new meaning to the expression “getting away from it all.”

Chinook and Chief Joseph

Chinook (pop. 1,242) takes its name from the Northwest intertribal patois for the warm southerly winds that rip through the area in January and February, raising temperatures some 50°F in a matter of hours, melting the winter snow, and allowing cattle to forage. Now a small cattle-ranching town, Chinook is best known for its proximity to the surrender site of Nez Percé Chief Joseph to the U.S. Army in 1877—which effectively marked the end of the Indian Wars of the Plains. The very good Blaine County Museum (501 Indiana St., 406/357-2590, free), four blocks south of US-2, includes an impressive collection of fossils and local pioneer artifacts, as well as an informative multimedia presentation on the events leading up to the final surrender of Chief Joseph.

If the weather is fine and you can spare half a day, the actual site where the Nez Percé were captured is now preserved (with an interpretive trail and a few plaques, but otherwise unchanged) as Bear Paw Battlefield, part of the multi-site Nez Perce National Park and Nez Perce National Historic Trail, 16 miles south of Chinook via Hwy-240.

Blaine County Museum (501 Indiana St.)
Nez Perce National Park – Bear Paw Battlefield