The segment of the river shown below was photographed by satellite from an altitude of about fourteen miles. It extends from a point near Glasgow, Montana, beyond the southeast (lower right) corner of the image, to the vicinity of Tampico, Montana, beyond the northwest (upper left) corner (See "Building a Ranch," Fig. 8).
Creeping down the nearly imperceptible slope of the northern high plains, this is the stream Lewis and Clark described as possessing "a peculiar whiteness, being about the colour of a cup of tea with the admixture of a tablespoonfull of milk." Every turn furthers its langourous descent to mingle with the Missouri River. In the six straight-line statute miles from the upper left to the lower right corner of the image, the river meanders for 26.5 miles toward all points of the compass, falling only five feet, inch by merest inch.
The green areas are fields of hay and alfalfa in various stages of maturity, that are irrigated with river water during the growing season. The alternating long, rectangular lines are grain fields. The darker strips are fallow. That is, they have been plowed but left unseeded for one or more seasons to accumulate moisture and restore nutrients. The light tan strips have recently been plowed. This method of dryland farming was developed early in the twentieth century by agronomist Frederick Crane for James J. Hill, the builder of the Great Northern Railway and an innovator in the science of farmland conservation. It was conceived expressly for regions such as this in Minnesota, Montana, and North and South Dakota, where the annual precipitation is less than twenty inches. Undoubtedly, Thomas Jefferson, as well as Lewis and Clark, would have been impressed.
The nearly straight line that seems to brace up the erratic river is the Great Northern Railway (now Burlington Northern-Santa Fe) right-of-way that gave the entire region its name back in the 1890's - "The Highline."