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Ronan Homestead

Justin Kauffman


Behind the Shot

On the long drives between his home in Whitefish, Montana, and Missoula, the nearest “big city,”Justin keeps his eyes open for new potential locations to photograph. Missoula is about 130 miles south on U.S. 93. Along the way he passes Flathead Lake, which, with more than 200 square miles of water and 185 miles of shoreline, is the largest natural freshwater lake in the United States west of the Mississippi. The highway hugs the shoreline of the lake and straddles the foothills of the Mission Mountains to the east. South of the lake, the landscape opens to flat farmland and wetlands pockmarked with more than 800 glacial potholes. More than 200 bird species have been recorded here, including the great blue herons and double-crested cormorants that can be observed right from the highway.

Just about halfway between Whitefish and Missoula is the small town of Ronan. Originally settled in 1883, Ronan lies within the Flathead Indian Reservation, and was established for non-Indian homesteading in 1910. Many of the original homestead buildings remain in use today. Others, like the one that Justin photographed, were left abandoned.

In the shadow of the Mission Mountains, Justin found this homestead just off the main highway, exposed to the elements, but still standing. “I like to go on drives around Montana to look for older structures and unique things, especially old barns and buildings... things that capture time or tell their own stories, like this building does. I would love to know about the people who used to live there, what they did, and what life was like for them.”