Three Forks (pop. 1,845) gets its name from the confluence of the Gallatin , Madison , and Jefferson Rivers, which occurs on a wetland plain surrounded by mountains just north of town. A large factory on the edge of town produces talc. (In mountains to the south of town, deeply buried marble deposits have further metamorphosed into talc, making this a major talc-mining area.)
Just west of Three Forks, Highway 287 follows the Jefferson River through fossil-ridden limestone that’s been jostled into a tilted position. For a few miles the land is open and dry; past Lewis and Clark Caverns, the Madison River flows through a gorge of high buff-colored hills. This road, which eventually leads to Cardwell, is a pleasant alternative to the interstate.