Winnett was named for Walter John Winnett, who established a ranch in Montana Territory in 1879 near a trading post along McDonald Creek. In 1910 he built a store and petitioned for a post office. Winnett then became an official town. John Hughes was the first postmaster. The Milwaukee Railroad extended to Winnett in 1917, and oil was discovered in Devils Basin in 1919. This was the first oil strike in central Montana. On the Mussellshell River, at Cat Creek, drillers discovered significant oil reserves in 1920. A pipeline was then laid to Winnett. A refinery and railroad were established, so the railroad could ship oil out. By 1923, Winnett had a population of 2,000 people. By 1933, Winnett had lost three-quarters of its population. Today, the area's primary economy is ranching and farming at an elevation of 2,960 feet.
You'll find fishing opportunities southeast of Winnett at Petrolia Reservoir or southwest of town at Yellow Water Reservoir. Access to Crooked Creek Recreation Area and fort Peck Lake can be found nearby from Montana Highway 200. See also the James Kipp Recreation Area (538-7461) and War Horse National Wildlife Refuge (538-5436).
Winnett is located in central Montana, east of Lewistown on MT Highway 200.