East of Malta, the road and the railroad cross and recross the banks of the sluggish and narrow Milk River. Highway signs proclaim your entrance to “Beef Country”; just check out the menu options in the cafés and you’ll know you’ve arrived. US-2 continues its jaunt over the Milk River tributaries, winding along the swampy Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge, once the state’s best duck-hunting grounds and now warm-weather home to pheasant, grouse, and sage hens as well as pelicans, ibis, and herons.

Unless you’re a keen bird-watcher, the main place worth stopping along this stretch is 10 miles west of Saco and 4 miles north of US-2. Here, the Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs & Resort (406/527-3320, $50 and up) offers a huge naturally heated swimming pool, as well as hot tubs—as hot as 106°F!