Our area relies a lot on tourism to help generate tax money and jobs.  The Billings Convention and Visitors Bureau goes all out to attract people to "Montana's Trailhead."  Even the Crowne Plaza, where Cat Country rules the 23rd floor, is booked for most of the spring and summer period with guests traveling into our part of the country.

With gasoline prices rocketing upward and the current administration in Washington ignoring it, Montana and Billings in particular,  we could find ourselves in a stagnant market at the end of this tourist season.

I thought I'd explore a bit with a few "One Tank Travels".  These are places we all know are within an easy ride from Billings.  These are also locations we might not have visited in awhile.  Though its still a little before the season, I hopped in the car for a quick ride to Fort Scott and Yellowtail Dam.

The Drive

View Directions to Yellowtail Dam in a larger map

The 85 mile drive was uneventful, except for the street cleaning crew working in Hardin at 4:30 on Saturday afternoon.  Signage was good and pointed directly to the dam and the visitors center.  The dam, which was completed in 1967, is named after a member of the Crow Tribe from the 40's Robert Yellowtail.

There were only a couple of problems.  One, you can't get there from here.  The area near the dam had an ominous "closed for National Security" sign posted on the road leading to the dam.  It might have been a great time to have Travel Channel series host Don Wildman who does the show Off Limits, along to break the law and get closer.

Locating the Visitors Center

Considering it was "pre-season," it was impossible to locate a visitor's center, even with the signage directing us.  The whole reason for the trip was to take in the May wildflowers which are supposed to be particularly beautiful in the area.  No flowers on this trip.

According to the Park Service web site, the visitor center is open seven days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m; until May 22, 2011 when the summer season will extend visitor center hours from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week.

That differed from a conversation Monday with Chris Wilkinson, Chief of Interpretation at the Visitors Center.  Wilkinson said you'll find the visitors center on the other side of the "national security gate" which will be open starting Memorial Day.  More info at 406-666-2351, and happy One Tank Travels this spring and summer.