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Chinook, Montana

Downtown Chinook, Montana
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Chinook, Montana, to be truthful, is one of my favorite towns on the Hi-Line. Chinook probably hasn’t changed in years. Maybe that is what I like about it. Yet, the town has avoided the fate of some of the other Hi-Line towns due to its relatively close proximity to Havre. So even though the agricultural businesses around Chinook have consolidated and led to less people in the agricultural industry, the town itself has managed to retain both people and its businesses due to an influx of people who work in Havre but live in Chinook. In other words, Chinook seems to be becoming a “suburb” of Havre in some ways.

Chinook has a population of around 1500 people and is the county seat of Blaine County. The towns’ founders had the foresight to plan Chinook better than most towns on the Hi-Line. As such, the streets in Chinook are tree-lined and the town boasts several large parks (including a pool). All these trees, parks and its proximity to Havre, I think, have played a big role in allowing Chinook to avoid the fate of some of the other Hi-Line towns.

The location of Chinook is quite nice. It is located on Highway 2, about 20 miles to the east of Havre. Local attractions include the Blaine County Museum, which highlights the history of farming in and around the Chinook area. Other attractions include the Bear Paw Battlefield, which is part of Nez Perce National Historical Park and Nez Perce National Historic Trail. The battlefield highlights the last battle between the Nez Perce Tribe and the US Army. The battlefield is full of educational markers and is located about 16 miles south of town.

The history of Chinook dates back to the arrival of the Great Northern Railway. Back in the 1920’s, they heyday of the agricultural industry in Montana, Chinook had a massive Sugar Beet factory. Today, this factory is closed. Oil and gas discoveries have also from time to time given the local economy a boost. Yet, even today, Chinook remains an agricultural community.

One of Many Parks in Chinook
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Chinook has a very nice downtown. All the storefronts are full and the downtown area has been nicely kept up and restored. There are also numerous renovated old homes in Chinook, adding a “touch of class” to the town in some ways. The town is also very functional. While you won’t find a retail box store, Chinook has all the basic stores that a small town needs to have.

Chinook also serves as the eastern starting point for the Bears Paw Mountains Backcountry Drive. This drive is a fabulous trip through the remote Bears Paw Mountains of Montana.

Overall, I like Chinook. Anyone passing through town should plan on spending some time in Chinook and venturing down to the interesting and educational Bear Paw Battlefield. And, unlike some other struggling Hi-Line towns, I think Chinook has a pretty bright future, as its close proximity to Havre will allow it to “piggyback” on its growth, as people will undoubtedly move here seeking the small-town quality of life that Chinook provides.

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Downtown Chinook Another View of Downtown Chinook Clean Downtown Area of Chinook

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