The Crown of the Continent refers to over 18-million acres of some of the most intact wildland on the entire continent, spanning across northern Montana, southeastern British Columbia and southwestern Alberta. It is bound by the Rocky Mountain Trench on the west and the prairie foothills to the east of the mountains. The southern extent includes the Blackfoot Valley where the forests, waters, and wildlife of the Bob Marshall Wilderness slide into open grasslands. To the north of the region are the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks of Banff and Kootenay. It includes five tribal and First Nation reserves as well as two World Heritage sites: Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
This special place is filled with plunging Glacier-carved valleys, crystal clear waters, ancient cedar forests, native prairie and is defined largely by the habitat needs of the wide-ranging wildlife that thrive here, such as the grizzly bear, wolverine, wolf, and bull trout. It’s also defined by a rich cultural heritage. Native people still occupy the same territory after thousands of years, clinging to their ancestral languages and cultural traditions. They reside here alongside loggers, ranchers, miners and more recently an influx of new residents who have embarked on a variety of far-flung business ventures.
Recognizing this area as something truly exceptional, the National Geographic Society joined together with 50 regional conservation, business and tribal organizations as well as local communities and government agencies in both Montana and Canada to produce the Crown of the Continent Geotourism MapGuide in 2008. It was the fourth such map produced by the society as a means by which “to showcase the region’s most unique points of interest and to tell the broader story of a remarkable landscape beyond borders,” said Jonathan Tourtellot, former director of National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations and founder of the Geotourism MapGuide Program.
Travelers seeking culturally authentic experiences and visually stunning, unspoiled places have a valuable resource in this unique, community-based map and its companion website: companion website: crownofthecontinent.natgeotourism.com. The map highlights the Crown of the Continent region’s campgrounds/cabins/fire lookouts, communities, eating and drinking establishments, festivals/events/farmers markets, galleries and performing arts locations, historical sites and museums, lakes and rivers, parks and wilderness areas, scenic drives, trails and hikes, unique shopping, visitor centers, places to stay, great places to eat, and more! The elements of the map were submitted by locals and collectively describe what’s special about this place and what people are doing to keep it that way.