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In a Big Country Setting


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Shelly Montana

Population: 3,153


Shelly is named after Peter P. Shelly, a general manager of the Montana Central Railroad. In 1891 the Great Northern was making its way to Marias Pass and the builders dropped a boxcar from the train and called it a station. Shelly himself is believed to have said that Shelly would not amount to much. He was wrong: Shelly grew into a distribution and trade center for 50 miles in every direction. Shelly is the county seat of Toole County It lies approximately 35 miles south of the international boundary between Canada and the United States and 75 miles east of the Continental Divide and Glacier National Park.. The city lies on the trans-continental east-west main line of the Great Northern Santé Fe Railroad running between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Seattle. It is also located on the trans-continental east-west US Highway 2 and north-south Interstate Highway 15. Interstate 15 is the main highway into Canada servicing the communities of Lethbridge and Calgary. The Port of Sweetgrass is the largest entry between Seattle and Minneapolis. The 24 hour port offers U.S. Customs brokerage service for clearance of commercial traffic entering and leaving the United States.

In the 1890's the town was a cowboy town with hardly any fences or homesteaders. It was incorporated on June 7, 1910. By 1913 there were 5,000 entries for land in just one office. Homesteaders flooded into the area. The homesteaders suffered drought and became desperate. By the 1920's there was an exodus of homesteaders. In 1921 Gordon Campbell, a geologist found oil that stretched all the way to the Canadian border. New life came to Shelly. Shelly is historically significant for being the home of the Dempsey-Gibbons World Heavyweight Championship prizefight that was held here on July 4th, 1923. The fight went 15 rounds with Dempsey winning by a decision.



Bulwark Military Annex

Located 8.5 miles outside of Shelly is a semi-active Military installation. This installation isn't new it's presence goes back to the late 1800s when Fort Bulwark was established to protect white settlers in the region. During WWII the fort served as a training camp for US Rangers. After the war the camp was basically shuttered until the mid 50s when it was turned over to the US Air Force , became Bulwark Military Annex attached to Malmsteen Air Force Base. During the 60's, 70, and 80's the base housed approximately 100 officers and airmen who provided security and maintenance for the twelve nuclear missile silos located in western Toole and eastern Glacier counties. Those silos and their missiles were decommissioned in early 2005 and the Annex was closed as a permanent base.

However it is manned part of the year by a small maintenance staff that cares for the silos which were closed. Those silos are for sale and so the DoD requires regular maintenance and upkeep of the properties. From April through September the Annex is manned by approximately 30 Officers and Airmen TDY from Malmsteen AFB. The rest of the year the Annex is empty.


Crossroads Correctional Facility

This prison for men located in unincorporated Toole County, Montana just west of Shelly. The facility is privately operated by the Corrections Corporation of America. It is the only private prison in the state of Montana.

The facility houses detainees under contract with the Montana Department of Corrections and the United States Marshals Service. The facility opened in 1999 and is "multi-security", it has the capacity for holding 664 inmates and is currently at 112%

The prison is the second largest civilian employer in the region.

Crossroads was the detention site for Montana medical marijuana provider Richard Flor, who died a few months into his five-year federal sentence, allegedly because of a lack of appropriate medical care.

In December 2014, former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf was released from the facility on good behavior.


Campground Locations

Lake Shel-oole- I-15 Exit #364
Lewis & Clark RV Park- 1535 Oilfield Ave.
Shelly RV Park & Resort- adjacent to Comfort Inn & Suites
Trails West RV Park- adjacent to Best Western Shelly Inn & Suites
Williamson Park- I-15 Exit 358



Shelly’s churches invite you to worship and become involved in church related activities. The community is served by the following churches: Church of Jesus Christ Latter- Day Saints, Community Methodist Church, First Baptist Church, Jehovah’s Witness Church, Living Faith Baptist Church, New Life Church, Seventh Day Adventists St. Williams Catholic Church and St. Lukes Lutheran Church.


Civic Center

It is located at 669 Park Drive across from Marias Medical Center. They offer volleyball, racquetball, and exercise classes and a weight room.


Financial Institutions

Shelly has three full service banks: First State Bank, Wells Fargo and US Bank. There is also have two credit unions, Shelly Federal Community Credit Union and Bear Paw Credit Union.



The Toole County Library is located at 229 2nd Ave South. It is a very pleasant place to meet your reading needs. The library offers “inter-library loan service” so it can borrow books from around the state. The library is also equipped with computers for checking emails.


County Fair

The 4 County Marias Fair is held in Shelly each year on the 3rd weekend of July from Thursday through Sunday east of town at 619 Marias Fair Road.



Shelly has a weekly newspaper, the Shelly Promoter and an AM-FM Radio Station featuring local, statewide and national news, weather, sports and entertainment. KSEN-AM is located at 1150 on the dial and K-96 is at 96.7 on the FM dial.


The Golden Triangle

Shelly is located near the center of the "Golden Triangle", Montana’s richest irrigated and non-irrigated wheat and barley region. The Golden Triangle produces 70% of the barley and 60% of the wheat in Montana. Toole County also produces 90% of the mustard seed grown in the United States.


The Marias River

The Marias River, named after Meriwether Lewis' cousin, winds its way past the Marias Valley Golf Course and Country Club. Also located along the river is Williamson Park.


Toole County

Toole County encompasses 1965 square miles and is 54 miles wide. The highest elevation is 6960 feet.

Toole County was named for Joseph K. Toole, the first Governor of the State of Montana.


City of Shelly

The City of Shelly is governed by a Mayor and a City Council.


Medical Facilities

Shelly has excellent Doctors and state of the art facilities serving the region in The Marias Medical Complex which consists of Marias Medical Care, Marias Healthcare and Marias Care Center as well as Marias Regional Trauma Center. The Marias Heritage Center is a retirement and assisted living center located near the Medical Complex. The Medical Complex is the single largest civilian employer in the city and serves the complete medical needs of the entire northern part of Montana and the Blackfeet Reservation. 



The Roxy Theater is downtown and operates seven days a week with movies at 4, 7 and 9 PM (except Sundays when there are only 2 screenings a day 4 and 7). It has a single Screen and shows current movies which it generally screens for one week unless it is popular in which case it may extend screening for an additional week. The Theater is managed by Darren Durling, who is also the projectionist, a retired Air Force Master Sargent, who was stationed at Bulwark in the 1990's and stayed after his service. Durling has as far as anyone knows never been married and has never dated anyone in Shelly.



Shelly is home to several motels: The Comfort Inn, Crossroads Inn, Glacier Motel, O'Haire Manor Motel, Shelly Suites & Inn, Sherlock Motel, and Totem Motel.


Passenger Trains

The Amtrak train stops in Shelly 7 days a week. The east bound train arrives at approximately 11:20 am and the west bound train arrives at approximately 5:10 pm. The Shelly Station has 50 employees that live locally and work for Amtrak.



Shelly has excellent schools with a complex of schools on the north side that include a new elementary school, J. and Senior High School. These schools are once again state of the art Modern and would fit very well in any large metropolitan city environment. The curriculum is very forward thinking and complete with emphasis on not only preparing students for a successful collage career but also for preparing those who wish to forgo collage for technical and agricultural careers. In 2019 the Shelly High School opened its doors to Students from The Blackfeet reservation in a program designed to give greater scholastic opportunities to indigenous children. In 2021 the program, which was a success was broadened to include elementary and middle school children. As of 2022, the entire student body consists of 480 children from grades K-12 and the district employs 48 full time teachers


Swimming pool

The Shelly Swimming pool provides an indoor recreational opportunity from June 1st to August 30th. The pool is located at 105 12th Ave North. there is also a wading pool for toddlers adjacent to the swimming pool.



Shelly has a very active group of quilters. The Triangle Squares Quilt Guild meets every 3rd Tuesday of each month.


Visitor Information Center

The Visitor Information Center is located at 100 Montana Avenue and is open during the Spring, summer, and Fall months. It has a wide range of free pamphlets and brochures from the State of Montana and free Wi-Fi access. It is run by Curtis Clemons and Daphnine Saultars, both lifelong residents of Shelly and both widowed, Curtis's wife Arla passed in 1998, and Daphnine's husband Jacob in 2003. Both are in their seventies and are a wealth of knowledge and gossip. During the summer the center usually hires 2-4 teens to assist.


Carousel Rest Area of Shelby

The Carousel Rest Area Shelby is not your average rest stop. Featuring a restored 1936 merry-go-round with 900 lights and hand-painted animals, the carousel is a labor of love completed by the Shelby community in 2018.


Marias Valley Golf & Country Club

Shelly has the finest and most unique eighteen-hole golf course in the State of Montana, offering both the serious and recreational golfer a most pleasant experience on the links.

Constructed in 1967 along the banks of the Marias River, the course has 18 of the largest Bent Grass greens in the state. At 6,690 yards long, the course, with its tree-lines fairways, has water hazards, sand traps, grass bunkers and a challenging 600-yard hole.

Situated on the Marias River Valley, deer, beaver, porcupine, geese, ducks and other wildlife can be found roaming the course in the mornings and evenings. Located beneath the river breaks, the course also enjoys a bit a relief from the occasional prairie winds.

The Marias Valley Golf Course offers a full line of services for the golfer, including lessons by a PGA Professional, air conditioned clubhouse with food, drink, club and golf cart rentals. The pro shop, one of the best stocked in the state, offers a full line of clubs, clothes, bags, balls and accessories.



Law Enforcement.



Law Enforcement in Shelly is complicated. The overall responsibility for keeping the peace and dealing with crime is the Toole County Sheriff’s department. Not only are they responsible for all law enforcement in the city of Shelly, including patrolling the city. but their jurisdiction also now contains not only Toole County, but due to state budget cutbacks, the adjacent counties of Liberty, Glacier, and Pondera. This puts a strain on the Sheriff’s department that has led to overwork and a massive turnover in experienced deputies. Added to the mix is the recent retirement of the long-standing sheriff and the addition of her newly elected replacement.



To complicate matters, the county coroners, of which there are three, are elected officials who serve part-time and are not required to have any sort of medical or law enforcement background, are also certified law enforcement officers with police powers equivalent of that of an elected constable. By the way the county coroner does not pronounce a death, that is the on call medical examiners job, the coroner merely certifies the MEs pronouncement.



Then there is the City Police Department which is administrative only and run the city and county jails. The police department has no police officers or police duties, but they do have what is called the Investigation Division which was established in 2020. Prior to this all-investigative policing which called for a certified detective required the Sheriff’s department to ask for a detective to be sent up from Great Falls. This led to slow response and even slower closing of most cases which required a detective’s investigation. Due to the statewide organization of Montana’s Sheriff’s departments there are no certified detectives within the County organizations. In 2020 Shelly Established the Investigation Division which hired a small number of Police detectives to handle any investigations which the Sheriffs department needed thus cutting out the reliance on Great Falls. Shelly’s Investigators have all the normal police powers a city detective have but do not patrol. They work directly for the mayor and city council. The Sheriffs department must request an Investigator when they need one.



Game Wardens are law Enforcement persons with broad reaching powers. These  state employees are assigned zones for which they are responsible and often work hand in hand with local law enforcement.



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