Introduction to the History of the Mullan Military Road

The Mullan Military Road ran 624 miles from Fort Walla Walla, Washington, to Fort Benton, Montana. Exploration and surveying for the route began in 1853 and 1854 but construction was delayed due to confrontations with hostile Indians. Construction actually began in 1859 and the road was finished in 1862; the total cost of construction was $230,000. Road construction methods were rather basic, consisting mainly of chosing a suitable route without too much gradient, removing trees and rocks in a few places where necessary, and building bridges. Lots of bridges! There were dozens of bridges over the Coeur d'Alene and St. Regis Rivers. They were washed out frequently and needed repair every time the rivers flooded, which was often, especially in the spring. The road itself was hardly more than a trail and began to deteriorate almost as soon as it was built due to the harsh climate and lack of funds for maintenance. Rather than being a means for travel across the country, the road was used more for access to the interior of Idaho from Fort Benton in the east and from Fort Walla Walla in the west. Rather than wagons full of settlers, the main users of the road were miners and their pack trains of supplies.