Come to the Paradise Valley for the Yellowstone River, its valley, and the surrounding mountains.
A few miles south of Livingston, the paved but potholed East River Road leaves Highway 89. Both roads along the Yellowstone are lovely, but East River Road gives a better view of the way people live in the valley.
The upper Yellowstone River cuts through the gneiss of narrow Yankee Jim Canyon, 15 miles north of Gardiner. Jim George, also known as Yankee Jim, built the first road into Yellowstone National Park. He charged a toll to travel the road, and when the Northern Pacific claimed its right to the roadbed, the railroad was forced to build Yankee Jim another road farther up the hill.
Jardine, an old mining ghost town five miles up Bear Gulch from Gardiner, has seen several spurts of mining activity. Both gold and arsenic were mined here, with arsenic production continuing until the end of World War II.
The late 1980s saw another attempt to mine gold from Jardine, but the town is notable chiefly as home to some well-preserved mining relics. Hiking trails starting in Jardine lead into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.
Down between Corwin Springs and Gardiner, you may spot some pretty normal-looking blue-painted houses off the road to the west. These are one remaining sign of a spiritual group whose presence rocked the Paradise Valley for a time. During the 1980s and 1990s, the Church Universal and Triumphant (known locally as CUT) bought more than 25,000 acres of land north and west of Gardiner. This spiritual community believes in developing harmony between the land and its inhabitants, but drew much criticism for its land use and environmental track record, not to mention its accumulation of weapons, and the local community was very wary of them. The church’s leader, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, developed Alzheimer’s disease in the late 1990s and since then things have quieted down a bit.
The church has worked with the federal government on land and wildlife issues (including allowing a limited number of Yellowstone bison to cross church land in order to access nearby Forest Service land), and many members have become more integrated into the local community, easing some of the tensions.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition