Townsend (pop. 1,867, elev. 3,833 feet) has always made the most of its location. Set up in advance of the arrival of the first Northern Pacific train in 1883, Townsend was laid out with a deliberate sensibility, as if it were intended for bigger things.
Prosperous farmers and ranchers along the Missouri nourished the strapping town; with the completion of Highway 12 linking central Montana to the west, Townsend became a transportation crossroads. When the Canyon Ferry Dam was built in the 1940s, Townsend planted its flag over the lakes’ recreational opportunities.
Today, Townsend is a pleasant town filled with trees and parks, seemingly dedicated to recreation on the nearby lakes and along the Missouri River.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition