This week's focus takes us along the banks of the Jefferson River to Montana's first state park. With some of the most intricate cave networks in the United States, and with over a million limestone formations, Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is the only show cave in the Northwest. The limestone cave system was created by water and discovered almost 100 years after Lewis and Clark's expedition through the area.
On your way between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, Lewis and Clark Caverns offers a wide range of activities from biking to hiking to fishing and cave exploration (not to mention camping!).
Best known for its caverns, the limestone caverns feature stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and helictites.
The limestone was formed by layers of calcium-rich organisms that died in a sea that was present around 325 and 365 million years ago – you can still find oceanic fossils in the cliffs surrounding the trail on your hike to the upper entrance of the caves.
Did you know?
When President Theodore Roosevelt made the caverns a National Monument, he decided to name them after Lewis & Clark as it had been 100 years since the Corps of Discovery had set out on their expedition and there was no federal monument named for them yet.
With approximately 3,105 acres to explore, finding an activity suitable for any age and area of interest isn't difficult at Lewis and Clark Caverns.
✅ Looking for some time in the fresh air? This state park offers 10 miles of trails for hiking and biking.
✅ There are two visitor centers that offer excellent information and you’ll even find concessions.
✅ You’ll find interpretive displays throughout the park to learn more about the park and those who explored it.
✅ Don’t forget to stop at the Montana Gift Corral shop and pick up a souvenir.
✅ Catch an interpretive event hosted throughout the summer months.
✅ Plus so much more!
Caves can only be accessed via guided tours which are only offered May 1 - September 30, but special candlelight tours offered in December will resume in 2019 after the installation of a new lighting system inside the caverns is completed next spring.
The Classic Caverns tour is considered moderate to difficult. And is 2 miles over approximately 2 hours. This tour is great for kids and adults alike. But be prepared: It is a 10% grade uphill to reach the cave entrance and requires the need to duck, waddle, bend and slide (yes, slide!) while on tour. Also be sure to bring a light jacket as the interior to the caves is significantly chillier than outside temperatures.
$12/person, 12 years & older
$5/child, 6-11 years
Children 5 and under are free
DID YOU KNOW?
Lewis & Clark Caverns was Montana’s first state park. And while Lewis & Clark didn’t ever venture into the caves, they did travel through Jefferson Canyon on eight dugout canoes on the Jefferson River (which you can see during your hike to the caves).
There are 40 campsites available as well as a tipi and three cabins for rent! There is a group camping site available as well, be sure to contact the park in advance if interested in renting this site.
So - let’s get outside! And in the meantime, help support the boots-on-the-ground work the Foundation is doing at the park in 2019.
How Will the Foundation Help Lewis and Clark Caverns in 2019?
Each year the Foundation chooses a select few projects on-the-ground in Montana State Parks to help make a meaningful and long-term impact.
In 2019, Lewis and Clark Caverns is one such project. The Foundation is helping to make the caverns more accessible to all ages and mobility levels. This will include a shortened, more accessible access point to the caves, improved benches and rest areas on the larger hike, as well as sun shade structures at the lower caves entrance.
If you envision a Lewis and Clark Caverns of today for our future generations, I encourage you to donate today to help ensure that it becomes a reality.
Love the park? Grab a shirt, sweatshirt, or coffee mug of your choice to support Lewis and Clark Caverns.