Livingston History

In July of 1806, Captain William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped on the Yellowstone River near the present-day location of Livingston, Montana. He was heading home with Sacajawea and a few others, following the descending Yellowstone River. Clark’s party rejoined the Lewis party at the confluence with the Missouri River. The town of Livingston didn’t exist then, but the river and mountains that have continued to draw people must have impressed Captain Clark and his fellow explorers.

Before Livingston was a bustling art haven, fly fishing destination, and outdoor recreation Mecca, it was a small trading post on the Yellowstone River called Benson’s Landing. The Northern Pacific Railway arrived in July 1882 and renamed it “Clark City” for contractor Herman Clark.

In November 1882, Clark City moved three miles upstream from the trading post to its present location and was renamed “Livingston” in honor of a Northern Pacific Railway stockholder and director, Johnston Livingston.

When the Northern Pacific Railway built a spur rail line running south to Yellowstone, Livingston became the “Gateway to Yellowstone National Park.” Livingston was also headquarters for the NPR’s Central Division and a good location for railroad shops to service NPR steam trains before their ascent over the Bozeman Pass, the highest point on the line at 5,702 feet.

Late in the 1800s, Calamity Jane — professional US cavalry scout, frontierswoman, and friend of Wild Bill Hickok — resided in Livingston and entertained traveling members of European Royalty.

In 1938, Dan Bailey, an eastern fly fisherman, established Dan Bailey’s Fly Shop and mail order fly tying business on Park Street where it still resides. Today, fishing guides, actors, writers, and filmmakers call the Livingston area home, as do ranchers, business owners, and railroad workers.