It was like stepping into a Western film. I did a double take. Is that a character played by Robert Redford hunched at the end of the bar, wearing a cowboy hat and nursing a beer? No, it is just a local rancher, stopping in for a drink at the end of hard day’s work.
Augusta, Montana, feels like the Wild West. It is a small town—and a gateway city to the awesome expanses of the Bob Marshall Wilderness—made up of ranchers, fishermen, and families. The town has less than four hundred inhabitants and is famous for the Augusta American Legions Rodeo featuring a parade and competitions of roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, barrel racing, and more. And right in the center of Augustan life is the community hangout, the Buckhorn Bar.
On my road trip through the state, I stopped in for a bite to eat after a local friend suggested this bar to me. But I was anticipating what I found inside. Outside, you wouldn’t think there was much to speak of behind a heavy metal door, painted with a brown silhouette of a buckhorn.
Inside, the wood beams of the ceiling are adorned with countless elk antlers donated by locals. In every direction are taxidermy wildlife—an owl, bears, wolves, and even a mountain lion. It is like a museum of wildlife, like nothing I’ve ever seen before in my life—the city slicker that I am.
Tammy Dellwo runs the Buckhorn Bar with her son and husband. She proudly showed me every corner of the space. She shared the microbrews on tap, the Montana landscape photography, the framed Native American arrowheads her family dug up, and the room in the back full of poker machines.
This is where many in Augusta come to gather after big events, after church, basketball games, celebrations, and just for fun. Tammy serves burgers, steaks, BLT’s and roast chicken. In fact, she is known far and wide for her chicken smothered in a creamy white sauce.
Viewfinder Tip: To experience the Old West, be sure to pass through Augusta during the annual Augusta American Legions Rodeo—a local tradition of nearly 80 years.
On Friday and Saturday nights the place turns into a dance party—and a rowdy one at that. You might expect country here, but local here get down to hip hop and pop tunes too. On Sunday, during the day, the bar transforms into a family friendly establishment. And throughout the week, the Buckhorn Bar is a welcome respite for anyone needing a break.
The Buckhorn Bar seemed to me to be at the heart of local life in this gem of a small town in Montana—second to church, that is. And if you are like me, always trying to feel what real life is really like in a destination, this spot is not to be missed. To watch the video of my visit to the Buckhorn Bar, click here.
What is your favorite local bar? And why?