As happened throughout the Rocky Mountain west, trappers were followed by prospectors, then cattlemen and finally homesteaders. Wherever there was the promise of business opportunity or resources to exploit, entrepreneurs and capital soon became part of the equation. The communities that were ideally located for a railroad depot inevitably prospered. And so it was with Eureka and the satellite communities of Trego, Fortine and Rexford when the Great Northern Railroad came through in 1904.
Although there were those who envisioned the Tobacco Valley as ideally suited for growing various fruits and vegetables, over the decades it became obvious that the growing season fell short of what was needed to reliably produce crops other than hay. Christmas tree production and even bootlegging were once integral to the local economy, but it was harvesting timber and producing lumber along with railroad ties that fueled the local economy.
The timber industry was the mainstay from about 1908 through 1925. It was then the easily harvestable timber began to dry up. Eureka’s large lumber mill closed and the Tobacco Valley eked by for many years on a sluggish economy. That all changed after WW II when chainsaws, tractor crawlers, skidders, and trucks made heretofore unreachable stands of timber readily accessible, which resulted in lots of good-paying jobs.
Another blow to the local economy came along in the 1990 when area loggers and sawmill operators began to experience challenges in securing reliable sources for the timber resource and jobs began to disappear. Presently, the economy of the Tobacco Valley has stabilized with tourist dollars, and while the jobs provided by the timber industry have not been replaced the hardy people that live here continue to thrive. While the area is a relative paradise compared to other parts of the United States, and most of the ranches are still in operation, the recreational aspects remain strong, and many are expanding as the economy strengthens.
The people who have been fortunate to live in the area enjoy the natural beauty of the clear water lakes, public lands, and the Eureka community to call home.
Founded in the late 1880s, Eureka is a clean and charming small town. The downtown area of Eureka is a busy place especially in the summer, possibly due to Eureka’s location on US Highway 93, the nearby Roosville Border Crossing station into Canada, recreational properties, summer cabins, and the many activities and lakes available.
Eureka is located in part of the Rocky Mountain Trench, in what’s known as the Tobacco Valley. The valley is flanked to the east by the towering mountains of the Whitefish Range, with smaller and heavily forested Purcell Mountains located to the west.
Lake Koocanusa is located nearby, as is Glen Lake, Sophie Lake and Dickey Lake, along with other recreational and fishing lakes. The vast National Forest lands that literally surround the community give this area many outdoor activities to choose from. Whether hunting , camping, hiking, boating, or whatever your favorite recreational pursuit may be, you can find it in Northwest Lincoln County! Plus, the 60 miles of Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway begins northwest of Eureka, on MT State Highway 37 and continues all the way to Libby, MT, giving you a truly beautiful scenic drive.
Overall, visitors to Eureka won’t be disappointed. While the town is small, it has plenty of festivals, shops, restaurants and activities to enjoy during the summer months, and there are several local golf courses to choose from. During the winter months, there is skiing on Whitefish Mountain in Whitefish, MT, Turner Mountain in Libby, MT, Backtail Ski Resort in Lakeside near Kalispell, MT, and the Fernie Ski Hill in Fernie, BC (in Canada), all within a one-hour drive from Eureka. You can strap on a pair of skates to play on one of the frozen lakes, ice fish, go sledding, world-class snowmobiling, cross country skiing, the list is endless of the things to do in the Tobacco Valley.
Come visit us today!