Mullan Road

Where elbow room is in abundance.

If you cross Reserve Street on Mullan Road and head west, you’ll find a collection of neighborhoods and open spaces connected by a well-traveled thread of roadway that traces Montana history itself. Located along the western portion of the Old Mullan Road, this neighborhood, which is named for the famous trailblazer Captain John Mullan, is a large swath of level valley floor once comprised of family ranches. Today there are still rural homes with acreage and even horses and livestock, but there are also several self-contained neighborhoods in this area. Residents are drawn to the western side of Missoula because it offers extensive views of mountains on all sides. They also enjoy quick access to the Clark Fork River that winds along the southern border of the neighborhood. From homesteaders to longtime residents to newer transplants, the Mullan Road Neighborhood is open to all kinds of neighbors that tend to share the desire for a peaceful life away from the hustle and bustle of the city, but close enough to get into the action if they so choose. With nearby recreation on the river and Forest Service land, there is still plenty of exploration to be done in this part of town.

Neighborhood Council:

Area Transportation:

School Information:

  • To find the public schools in this neighborhood, visit the Missoula County Public Schools website and view the Attendance Boundary Maps located here.
  • Hellgate Elementary (Public)
  • DeSmet School (Private)

Demographic Information:

Missoula County

City of Missoula

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If you like the closeness of Missoula, but you need a little space, this is home.

Naturally a grassland area, there are very few trees in the Captain John Mullan Neighborhood except for those along the river. In fact, at one time the area was called Grass Valley. This lack of trees is more than made up for with the unobstructed views. You can see both the “L” and the “M” of Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel in the east, Ch-paa-qn Peak in the west, and Blue Mountain onwards to the Bitterroots in the south. The subtle rolling prairie proved a prime place to graze cattle. Today, it also makes for a spectacular golf course located at The Ranch Club, the only links-style course in Missoula. There are several other subdivisions within the Mullan Neighborhood including Pleasant View, Hellgate Meadows, 44 Ranch, Country Crest, and El Mar.

With virtually no commercial pockets in this area, recreation and outdoor pursuits provide welcome distractions. A highly popular fishing and gathering place on the Clark Fork is located at Kelly Island. Families congregate here for summer picnics on the river as do fly-fishing guides taking their clients out for a day of camaraderie and trout fishing on one of western Montana’s preeminent waterways. A series of trails run throughout the island for hikers and birders to explore. The island is a major destination for resident and migratory birds. Don’t be surprised to see an osprey swoop down to break the river’s surface and emerge with a shimmering rainbow trout. Ducks and geese live in the wetlands as does a large heron rookery. In the pastures up and down the river, there have even been pheasant sightings.

Hunting is a popular sport throughout western Montana, but Mullan neighbors have a particular advantage with Deep Creek Shooting Range and public land to hunt nearby. Forest Service land rises into the hills to the southwest where you’ll encounter thicker vegetation and more wildlife, including deer. But if shooting stars are more your speed, the open night sky and low light pollution in the Mullan Neighborhood have drawn together a stargazing group that meets to marvel in the night sky.

The neighborhood built around the historic Mullan Road is still a thoroughfare for those who wish to challenge themselves. The Missoula Marathon, which starts in Frenchtown, comes down Mullan Road, turns onto Kona Ranch Road, and then runs along the Clark Fork on Big Flat Road. As the sun rises over the eastern hills, runners from all over the world share the landscape with curious cows and a few farm trucks in the golden morning light. There is also a trail system near the Country Crest neighborhood for daily fitness use.

Because of the spread-out nature of the neighborhood, there are not a lot of full neighborhood events, although individual areas will put together their own get-togethers. Additionally, the greater Missoula community frequents The Ranch Club’s excellent restaurant and event facilities for a variety of fundraisers, weddings, and celebrations.

Sometimes Mullan Neighborhood residents will be cloaked in a mysterious fog from the river, when their friends in town are experiencing a sunny day – and vice versa. Gardeners in the neighborhood also pay respect to their antlered neighbors. Instead of fighting the deer, many plant decoy vegetation for them to munch on instead of their tomatoes or corn. It’s amazing to live among historic ranch land and wild riverfront and to think that you’re only a few miles from the commercial center of Reserve Street. Keeping a slower pace and cooperating with the outdoors is what living here is all about.

The Mullan Neighborhood is a place of natural beauty and American history recorded early on. After the Corps of Discovery made the decision to take different routes on their return journey, Meriwether Lewis had an unfortunate dowsing when his raft flipped while crossing the Clark Fork River near Kona Ranch Bridge on July 3, 1806.

Captain John Mullan was a pioneer and explorer, and a West Point-educated topographical engineer by trade. He built the Mullan Road, a major thoroughfare opening up the Northwest for trade and settlement. The stretch through Missoula County paralleled the north bank of the Clark Fork from the Alberton area to the Granite County line and was completed in the spring of 1860. That same year, the town of Hellgate was established along the road. The treaty of Hellgate, signed with the Bitterroot Salish, Pend d’Oreille, and Kootenai tribes in 1855, ensured safe travel along the road and led to the development of what is now modern Missoula.

When you’re driving on Mullan Road look for the intersection of Deschamps Road from the north. One of the prominent ranching families in this area is still a name heard around town. Antoine and Julia Marca Deschamps settled near what is now Frenchtown in 1870. Of French Canadian descent, the Deschamps family, whose last name means “of the fields,” have made the Grass Valley/Frenchtown and Missoula area home for eight generations. In the 1800s, one of the Deschamps sons, Joseph, bought his brother Gaspard’s interest in a blacksmith shop on W. Main Street in Missoula called Hamel & Deschamps. Gaspard is also known as the one-time owner of the land that is now The Ranch Club residential community and golf course. Over the years, the family grew and more Deschamps migrated from Quebec to settle in the valley. This pioneering family became engaged in civic life in Missoula within state and local politics, the education system, and the arts. They remain involved to this day.

Many of us remember the various ways we kept up on the comings and goings of our hometowns and neighborhoods. Whether it was through the grapevine, a community group, or the weekly newspaper, we had a resource for information and an outlet to share our thoughts. The LiveMissoula! neighborhood blogs revisit that concept in a new way by providing an open, online destination where neighborhood stories can be posted and shared. To contribute to the discussion, we encourage you to add your comments. If you have an idea for a story, contact the Neighborhood Volunteer Advocate listed under each neighborhood’s Fast Facts pages.