Lewis & Clark Caverns - Whitehall, MT - Montana's First and Most Famous State Park


The Lewis and Clark Caverns are most famous for being the state of Montana's first official state park and cover a collective area of 3040 acres at an elevation level of 4200 feet. Nestled within the impressive limestone cliffs just above the Jefferson River, it is also one of Montana's best known and most popular state parks as well. The caverns themselves are safe, electrically lit, and serve as openings to a fascinating underground world of natural caves that feature spectacular wonders such as stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, rock icicles, and frozen waterfalls. Visitors to the caverns are treated to a fascinating lesson in natural history, the science of geology, and the history of early exploration in the great state of Montana.

The current name attached to the caverns is actually somewhat misleading, as the real Lewis and Clark most likely never visited or even knew of the caverns, let alone discovered them. The caves were actually discovered in the year 1892 by two hunters who are considered to be the first modern men ever to enter them. (Indian arrowheads have been found within the caves, indicating the presence of early Native Americans.)

Later on, one of the hunters by the name of Tom Williams began to wonder about the possibility of developing the caves and began to explore his related options. The caverns were at that point equipped with wooden stairs and first opened up to the enjoyment of the general public.

However, a dispute as to who really owned the property eventually sprang up between Williams and Northern Pacific Railroad. The railroad company took Williams to court and won, after which they turned ownership of the caverns over to the federal government. (It was at that point that the caverns were named after Lewis and Clark.) In 1937, the area officially became Montana's first state park.

Today, the Lewis and Clark Caverns are open to the general public year round and are a popular attraction for people both within the state and from out of state. Guided tours are conducted during many the summer and autumn months, but visitors have the option of taking a self-guided nature trail tour of the surrounding area as well. (It is generally recommended that guests expect to devote a full two hours to their exploration of the caverns.) There is also a visitor's center, a variety of educational displays, and summer evening educational programs available for the convenience and enrichment of guests who would like to learn more about the caverns.

Guests are also free to camp or stay on the grounds. There is a 40-space campground area available for the conveniences and comfort of the guests, as well as 3 camping cabins. (Camping cabins comfortably sleep up to four people and have a maximum occupancy of up to 6. However, amenities like bedding, kitchen facilities, and plumbing are not provided within the cabins.) There are also shower facilities, bathroom facilities, an RV dump area, picnic areas, fire ring, gathering areas, and concession areas provided.

A golf course and several museums are located in nearby Three Forks for the convenience and enjoyment of the guests as well, providing enjoyable nearby entertainment for campers.

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May 24, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
I understood that the hunter/disputer was Morrison, not Williams.
Where did you verify your information?

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