Terry: There are no traditional or chain motels in town; those are 38 miles to the southwest in Miles City or 40 miles to the northeast in Glendive, both on I-94. Terry’s most notable lodging offering is the Kempton Hotel ($, 406-635-5543), built in 1912 and the oldest continually operating hotel in Montana. Calamity Jane and former president Theodore Roosevelt are among the more celebrated guests in a structure that looks as if it came from a military outpost. The Kempton’s walls are adorned with old black-and-white photos. There’s an adjacent antique shop and the place does exude a certain charm, but luxurious it isn’t. Like all century-old hotels, the Kempton reputedly is haunted. Rooms are available by the night, and well-worn cabins out back are rented by the week or longer for hunters or residents. They also have 18 RV spaces from May until hunting seasons end in October. For the more traditional traveler, the Diamond Motel & Campground ($, 406-635-5407) is a 1950s-style motor-court operation just down the street and is the only other game in town. It’s only open April to October.
Circle: Circle has one motel, The Traveler’s Inn ($, 406-485-3323), and the fourteen rooms are serviceable if you need a roof over your head on a route where lodging options are far apart. wolf point: The best option is the forty-four-room Sherman Inn ($$, 406-653-1100) on the edge of Old Town. It has a remodeled restaurant, lounge, casino, and 24-hour fitness center, and renovations were underway in 2015. On US 2, it’s probably the most appealing lodging between Williston, North Dakota, and Glasgow.
Fort peck: The old Fort Peck Hotel ($$, 406-526-3266, Apr. Dec.) has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a throwback to the 1930s, when the nearby dam was built and folks swarmed the area. Things are much quieter now, except in the summer, and also when the occasional ghost reputedly wanders the creaky halls. Rooms are smallish, with older beds, and you won’t find televisions, telephones, and, in some cases, showers (some have clawfoot tubs) hence the modest rates.
Camping: Fort Peck Reservoir has ample camping opportunities, most in appealing locations. If you don’t mind having the earthen dam looming over you, Downstream Camp (406-526-3224) is set amid leafy cottonwoods and has by far the most amenities. There are eighty-six sites with electricity, another thirteen for tents. Play basketball, walk a mile-long nature trail, and turn the kids loose in the play area; you’ll likely need advance reservations for this popular campground. The West End Recreation Area & Campground (406-526-3411) has twenty-four sites with views of the lake, including fourteen for RVs. Outside Circle you’ll find the most intriguing lodging and the best way to fully grasp the subtle rhythms of the region the Wolff Farms Vacation Home ($$/$$$, 406-4852633). Wolff Farms is a sprawling working farm about 15 miles northwest of Circle, between MT 13 and Fort Peck Reservoir. The rooms are intimate and filled with antiques, and you’ll get three hearty meals. But the draw is the wide-open spaces, horseback riding, deer and game-bird hunting, access to fishing and boating on the reservoir, immersion in the prairie way of life, and peace and quiet. They might even let you lasso a calf.
Terry: The cash-only Dizzy Diner ($, 406-635-4666, B/L/D) is bright, has wireless Internet, and is a comfortable place to get a burger or chicken strips, fries, shake, and salad. In an area where you’re always feeling as if you’ve stepped back in time, the new Badlands Cafe & Scoop Shoppe ($, 406635-2233, L/D, Mon-Fri.) harkens back to the 1950s. You can’t miss it: the hindquarters of a red 1955 Chevy are part of the marquee above the entrance. Note: the cafe was for sale in the summer of 2015.
Circle: The Wooden Nickel Bar & Restaurant ($, 406-485-2575, L/D), as you might expect in a place surrounded by cattle, is known for locally produced burgers and steaks. For solid wraps, sandwiches, smoothies, and baked goods, there’s the Lunch Box ($, 406-485-2386, B/L/D). wolf point: Highlights are the Old Town Grill ($, 406-653-1031, B/L/D) and Wolf Point Cafe ($, 406-653-1388, B/L/D), both with traditional lineups. The Sherman Restaurant ($/$$, 406-6531100, B/L/D) makes it possible to sleep and eat without leaving your hotel. The chicken carbonara and the pork chop dinner are highly recommended, along with prime rib on Wednesdays and ribs on
Fort peck: The Missouri River Grill ($/$$, 406-526-3266, B/D, Fri. Sun. May Nov.) in the Fort Peck Hotel offers upscale environs unique to these parts. Naturally, one of the local favorites is the walleye, crusted with Parmesan cheese.
Park grove: Just about every joint says they have the best hamburger in Montana, but the otherwise nondescript Park Grove Bar & Cafe (406-526-3252, L/D), downstream from the dam, can back it up with a burger once deemed best in the state by Montana Magazine. That led to the bar’s burgers being featured in a Get Lost in Montana television commercial. The fresh-ground patties are hand-pressed each day by the owners. The weathered bar and cafe, in an old farmhouse set amid the shade of giant cottonwoods, is the only business still operating in the one-time boomtown of Park Grove. The cafe has lunch specials daily. The remains of a few abandoned shanties are scattered nearby, relics still clinging to existence eight decades after the heady days of the Great Depression
Fort peck: The Gateway Club (406-526-3557, L/D) dubs itself The Best Dam Bar by a Dam Site, and who’s to argue, given the locale? The Gateway has a meat-centric menu and is a happy gathering spot for folks who’ve just pulled their boats out of the reservoir at the nearby marina. If looks were everything, this place would be a Best Bar, hands down. But it tends to run inconsistent in food quality and service. Too bad, because the setting is the kind of place where you want to take a drink outside and watch the sun set over the vast sea of water. Take a chance, we say you might hit it on a good night. The Gateway is open daily in summers and Wednesday through Saturday during the winter.