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Raynold's Pass 

In New Mexico roads often cross the Continental Divide without much fanfare, often without barely the hint of a climb, and motorists take no notice of the quickly passing green sign saying "continental divide". Historically too, continental divide crossings this far south were of little importance. Not so in Montana. Raynold's Pass was first named "Low Pass", a good simple description, and was heralded as one of the great pass discoveries. As it turned out the low crossing turned out not to be that important, but the name stuck. Traffic on this road is much lighter than on nearby Targhee Pass, which makes Montana's rumble strips still dangerous, but not as dangerous.

1.(00.0km~00.0mi, 1808m~5932ft ) START-END NORTH: Lyons Bridge Crossing over Madison River
2.(10.1km~06.3mi, 1882m~6175ft) START-END ALTERNATE: turn left, straight goes to Hegben Lake on US287
3.(22.6km~14.0mi, 2068m~6785ft) turnoff to FR230 to Antelope Basin is on right
4.(24.0km~14.9mi, 2080m~6824ft) TOP: Raynolds Pass
5.(32.1km~19.9mi, 1980m~6496ft) low point
6.(38.7km~24.0mi, 2018m~6620ft) START-END SOUTH: jct Mo87 - US20, east of Henry's Lake


From North (Atlantic). From the jct of US20 with US89, US89 can be seen aiming straight for a low gap ahead. The road could be called straight as an arrow, if it wasn't for its numerous, undulating ups and downs in its 9 miles to the summit. The road has a wide shoulder but it is rumble stripped down the middle so that riding on the shoulder is impossible. Cyclists are forced to ride in traffic, making this side needlessly dangerous. However traffic is light so conditions are much better than the Montana side of nearby Targhee Pass. The top has a large sign and a nice view of the range to the east.

From South. (Pacific) described downwards. The shoulder remains, but the dangerous and annoying rumble strip disappears as soon as you cross into Idaho at the top. The quality of the ride improves tremendously. Henry's Lake shimmers above the asphalt crest of the top and it is only 200 feet down to it



jct: Targhee Trail forest road - US20 > Targhee Pass > West Yellowstone > US287 nort and west > Hebgen Dam > Raynolds Pass > back to starting point (including between 5 and 10 miles of slow detours near West Yellowstone): 75 miles with 2500ft of climbing in 5:3 hours.



The Fur Trade. The route of Lewis and Clarke served as a reference route for subsequent explorers, who were motivated by trapping beaver for their fur. It seems silly today, but beaver covered hats were all the rage in European cities at the time. One of the principal players in the Rocky Mountain fur trade was the Spaniard Manuel Lisa. A partner and employee of his was John Colter, legendary rediscoverer of Yellowstone Park. In 1810 after his Yellowstone escapades, Colter and thirty American and French trappers built a fort at Three Forks. Blackfeet killed several of them and convinced Colter that life was too short, to go on gambling it away like this, and he returned east to enter his bean growing period. But Manuel Lisa already had a new partner. Andrew Henry decided to take a look at the Three Forks situation still in the same year, and was promptly chased away by Blackfeet. His flight from arrows and muskets lead him in a new direction, up the Madison River. In the process he crossed today's Raynolds Pass to the lake that would be named after him. At the time the lake was filled with islets surrounded by beflowered sections, which Bannack Indians used to burry relatives. The Henry group descended all the way to near today's St Anthony, Idaho. There they built a fort and wintered. But the fort had a brief existence, and most of the them crossed back over Raynold's Pass (or possibly  Targhee Pass) and returned down the Yellowstone. The exception were three hunters in the group Hoback, Robinson and Reznor who went on to cross Teton Pass. From now on trappers spoke of crossing "North Pass" and meant either Raynolds or nearby Targhee Pass.


Exloration by the Military and Surveyors. By 1860 Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man, had seen the fur trade come and go. That year he was hired again for a mountain expedition later in his life, this time to take a military expedition into the Rocky Mountains. The war department had assigned Captain Raynolds a whole list of impossible exploratory tasks. The captain was happy to condense the assignment into what he called an exploration of the Yellowstone. They left from Fort Casper on the North Platte. Jim Bridger and the captain had different ideas of how to proceed into the mountains. The route they finally ended up taking crossed Union Pass, which Raynolds named, then onwards to Jackson Hole, then over Teton Pass to Pierre's Hole. A week's time of traveling north along the mountains brought them to the same low spot above the beflowered lake. "I named it Low Pass and deem it to be one of the most remarkable features of the Rocky Mountains" Raynolds wrote in his journal. They continued over the pass to Three Forks and returned to Fort Benton. The captain was proud of his "exploration of the Yellowstone", even if he never laid eyes on it.

In 1871 tourism was just beginning in nearby Yellowstone National Park. This was the year when the epic exploration of the Hayden Survey mapped the region carefully. They called the pass Madison Pass.

Montana Gold Rush (<Teton Pass|Mt287 summit(u) Enis - Virginia City>): Good times in Bannack only lasted a year. Then the gold was played out. But new finds were being made in Virginia City. Raynolds Pass was on an access route that lead from Jackson Hole over Teton Pass, Raynolds Pass to Enis and onwards to Virginia City.

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