The Nez Perce National Historical Park (NPS) was established in 1965, charged with preserving and protecting sites and resources significant to Nez Perce history and culture. The site is on a route used by cyclists that ride west to it from Billings, then on to Molt and return via Echo Canyon on Molt Road. Unfortunately, over the years, the site gradually fell into disarray. In June 2022, the Friends of Canyon Creek, Inc. entered into an agreement with Bright N’ Beautiful, another private-not-for-profit group, to ensure the site is maintained in perpetuity. The NPS is partnering with the Friends, which holds the deed to the property, the Montana Department of Transportation, and the City of Billings to improve signage guiding visitors to the location.
Dave Wanzenried, a former state legislator, was unaware of the memorial until he pulled over about two years ago on a drive from his West End home. Soon he sought out the group and has become a champion of the site’s refurbishment.
Until very recently, visitors had to cross a cattle guard, which tended to deter cyclists from stopping. Wanzenried said, that since “it served no purpose whatsoever, I had the guard removed last month.” The site is now more accessible for all types of visitors, including cyclists and people in assistive mobility devices. “Since then, during the time I have been at the site, the cyclists who now stop to relax have shared their appreciation,” he added.
By next year, Wanzenried is hoping to have raised $16,000 to $18,000 to repave the access road and parking area and reshingle the shelter. “It’s been literally a boot-strap operation,” he said. If all goes well, the site will be newly updated for the 150th anniversary of the battle in five years. Wanzenried hopes by then the kiosk will include a perspective from the Nez Perce, telling their side of the story.