Karst Stage was founded in 1902 by Pete Karst. In 1898, Karst passed through Montana on his way from Wisconsin to the West Coast. At Lewiston, Idaho, he turned around and came back to Bozeman. In 1902, Karst was driving freight and loggers from Bozeman to the Cooper Tie Camp which Walter Cooper had just opened on the Taylor Fork. The job required many horses, wagons, and drivers and, with the encouragement of Cooper, Karst acquired a loan from the bank to buy the necessary equipment to conduct the freight operation.
In 1908, Karst built the Karst Stage Stop Inn approximately 35 miles south of Bozeman in the Gallatin Canyon. Although this was the first “dude ranch” in the canyon, many more similar operations opened quickly after Karst. Karst transported passengers, mail, and freight from Bozeman and the surrounding area to his ranch and the many others in the area. He also began operating tours into Yellowstone National Park. The company became known as Karst Stage and the name has been retained to this day.
With the advent of the automobile, the US government announced in 1915 that 1916 would be the last year that horses would be used for primary transportation in Yellowstone National Park. Therefore, in 1916, Karst began purchasing motorized units for transporting passengers and freight.
Into the 1950s, during the winter months when the county could not keep the roads open for automobiles, Karst used sleds to deliver mail and freight throughout the Gallatin Canyon. During the summer, Karst Stage made daily trips from Bozeman to West Yellowstone delivering passengers, mail, and freight. The company also continued to provide tour transportation into Yellowstone National Park.
In the early 1950s, Pete Karst sold the business and retired. At that time, the transportation portion of the business was separated from the other Karst ventures and remains as the only portion from the original founding in 1902 in business today.
After Karst sold the business, Karst Stage primarily provided transportation for the Bozeman School system, with a little business in the tourist trade in the local area, and an occasional trip to the West Coast. As Bozeman and its school system grew, the school transportation side of the business became the primary focus.
In 1981, Jerry and Cathleen Perkins purchased Karst Stage and incorporated it as Karst Stage, Inc. Under Jerry’s leadership, Karst Stage has grown to encompass the West Yellowstone and Anaconda school systems, an airport shuttle service, a variety of transit services, and a charter motorcoach service that includes service to the Western United States and Canada.