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|>|| Lewis and Clark Caverns
The Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Montana is one of the largest limestone caverns found anywhere in the entire Northwest. Beautifully adorned with stalagmites, columns, stalactites and more, these remarkable caverns are definitely a "must see" while vacationing in the great state of Montana.
Located in Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, this amazing geological wonder is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and is well worth taking the time to witness this stunning example of a classic limestone cavern network.
The Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is Montana's very first state park, and still remains one of the state's most popular state park destinations.
The Guided Tour
The only way visitors can go inside the Lewis and Clark Caverns is by a guided tour. Tickets for these tours are available at the Visitor Center. Plan to spend about two hours on this guided tour, which includes the hike up to the cavern entrance and the hike back to the Visitor Center. The hike up to the Lewis and Clark Caverns Entrance is fairly steep, but there are plenty of benches along the way for you to rest if needed.
Once inside the Lewis and Clark Caverns, there are some stairs and narrow passages, as well as the famous "Beaver Slide". The staff at the Visitor Center will better explain the details and physical demands
to help you determine if you are able to participate in this tour. You will drop a total of about 300 vertical feet as you work your way through the caverns with your tour guide. And by the way, you'd better not be claustrophobic. If you are, you may need to re-think taking this underground tour. Summer tours of the Lewis and Clark Caverns of Montana are available from May 1st to September 30th each year.
The tour through the Lewis and Clark Caverns takes you many, many rooms and narrow passages, while the entire time you are actually dropping in elevation. Each new "grand room" is more beautiful than the last, and the tour ends up in the grandest room in the caverns. This is a wonderful climax to a fantastic experience.
Native Americans were familiar with the Lewis and Clark Caverns long before the caverns were discovered by two people from Whitehall, Montana in 1882 by the names of Charles Brooke and Mexican John. However, they told very few people about their discovery, so it essentially remained unknown to the general public.
Then in 1892, local ranchers Bert Pannel and Tom Williams saw steaming coming out of the caverns during a hunting trip. About 6 years later, in 1898, Williams came back and explored the Lewis and Clark Caverns for the first time, and decided to provide tours to the general public. Calling the cavern "The Limespur Cave," his business thrived for a short period of time, until the railroad stepped in with some bad news: They owned the land! In the year 1900, there was a heated court battle, and the railroad won. Then in 1908 the railroad gave the Lewis and Clark Caverns to the Federal Government.
Between Three Forks, Montana and Whitehall, Montana, off Interstate 90.
Exit 256 (Cardwell Exit), then follow signs about 5 miles SE on two lane paved road.
The caverns are located about 45 miles west of Bozeman, Montana.
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"Lewis and Clark Cavern National Monument"President Theodore Roosevelt made both the Lewis and Clark Caverns and the Grand Canyon National Monuments on the same day in 1908, and in time the Grand Canyon became a National Park, and on April 22, 1938 the Lewis and Clark Caverns become Montana's first State Park.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Montana.
Did Lewis and Clark Discover The Caverns?
Lewis and Clark did not discover the Lewis and Clark Caverns of Montana. The name resulted from the fact that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark did actually pass through portions of the modern day state park, and the caverns themselves overlook about 50 miles of the famous and historic Lewis and Clark Trail.
The Lewis and Clark Caverns of Montana are found in the Madison Limestone beds of Mississippian age. This limestone was formed by organisms, having shells made of calcium, who died in a sea that was found in this area about 350 million years ago. About 70 million years ago there was a tremendous uplift that greatly tilted the once level rock formation, and constructed joints in the Madison Limestone that eventually became the Lewis and Clark Caverns. As slightly acidic ground water seeped through these tilted joints of the limestone, the limestone, which is calcium rich, was slowly dissolved. Most of the Lewis and Clark Caverns creation, as well as the many other smaller caves found throughout this massive geologic formation throughout the West, were formed during the many cycles of ice ages. This is due to the increase in water supply during these ice ages that is required to dissolve the limestone to create these caves and caverns.
The Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park Services
The actual state park is about 3,015 acres in size, and in addition to the Lewis and Clark Caverns, the state park also features camping, a brand new visitor center, a gift shop, food and beverage concessions, interpretive displays, and hiking and biking trails. There is a nice campground with 40 campsites, three cabins and a tipi for visitors to enjoy. These campsites can be reserved online.
Visitor Center Park Entrance
The Trails "To and From" the Lewis and Clark Caverns
This is a view from the trail that takes visitors to the entrance of the Lewis and Clark Caverns. This shows both the trail leading to the caverns, and the trail that takes visitors back to the Visitor Center once the tour of the caverns is over. There is a fair amount of vertical elevation gain as you hike to the entrance, however the trail taking you back to the Visitor Center is quite level.
Visitors enjoying the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Montana.
Top Things To Do In Montana: Lewis and Clark Caverns