The town of Three Forks derived its name from the headwaters of the Missouri which is the confluence of the three rivers that are the source of the longest river system on the continent, the Missouri-Mississippi drainage. In 1805, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Corps of Discovery camped at the headwaters ofthe Missouri River. They named the southern fork Gallatin in honor of Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury; the middle fork, Madison, in honor of James Madison, Secretary of State; and the northern fork, Jefferson, in honor of President Thomas Jefferson.
Located in the renowned Gallatin Valley, the headwaters area includes the towns of Three Forks, Willow Creek, Trident, and Logan, up the Jefferson toward Whitehall, up the Madison toward Harrison, and down the Missouri toward Townsend. A tributary of the Jefferson River, Willow Creek, was named “Philosophy River” by Lewis and Clark.
The area of the headwaters and surrounding the town of Three Forks has some of the most colorful legends and early day history of any region in Montana. The headwaters area was a natural crossroads and hunting ground for various Native American tribes, such as the Blackfeet, Shoshone, Flathead, and Crow, many years before Lewis and Clark arrived. Nearby is the Madison Buffalo Jump State Park where buffalo were hunted until about 200 years ago.