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Small towns in focus: Loma

Three rivers and a highway

 

August 22, 2014

Eric Seidle

Loma sits wrapped around U.S. Highway 87 north of Fort Benton and south of Havre. The town has a population of 85, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

The town grew up at a mecca where three rivers meet: the Teton River, which runs into the Marias River, which runs into the Missouri.

This meeting of rivers makes for some great fishing. Catfish, bass, northern pike, walleye and sauger are some of the species that travel the rivers throughout the year, and in some weeks, anglers can catch up to seven species in a day, according to Greg Bouchard.

Bouchard has owned property in Loma for over a decade, but completely relocated to Loma in 2010. He has owned Ma's Cafe since 2003 and founded Pa's Mart after buying an old convenience store across the street from his restaurant in June.

"Everything you need and more," Bouchard said. "That's the motto we try to follow."

Bouchard is from Nevada, but after training his bird dogs in Montana, he "just fell in love with the place."

The biggest employers of the town are the farms that surround it, though the town is home to several businesses like Bouchard's: a construction company, catering business, mechanic and tire shop, and a bar and casino.

Bouchard said that though Loma is mainly a retirement community, there are a few younger families in town.

The youth of Loma primarily go to Fort Benton, 13 miles away, to go to school, but a few travel to Big Sandy.

U.S. Highway 87 splits the town in two and brings many travelers to the town. The businesses alongside the road can see hundreds of vehicles a day, especially around harvest time.

"There are times when you take your life in your hands when you cross the street," Bouchard said.

The town also has a varied history. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark went through the area in their expedition from St. Louis to the west coast and Loma is home to Decision Point, where they had to decide which river at the meeting of the Marias and Missouri was the Missouri.

Lewis wrote of the area in his journal on June 8, 1805:

Eric Seidle

"The whole of my party to a man except myself were fully persuaded that this river was the Missouri, but being fully of opinion that it was neither the main stream, nor that which it would be advisable for us to take, I determined to give it a name and in honour of Miss Maria W-d. called it Maria's River."

The name of the town itself is named after Maria's river. The first two letters of the words "lower Maria's" were joined to create "Loma."

Loma also holds the national record for biggest temperature change in 24 hours. On Jan. 14 to 15, 1972, the temperature rose 103 degrees Fahrenheit, from -54 to 49 degrees. The previous record was Browning's 100 degree change.

"It's a very interesting community," Bouchard said. "It's a very vibrant community. It's a wonderful little place to live. Just a great bunch of friendly people. It's a real self-sufficient community. We take care of ourselves."

 

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