Sluice Boxes State Park3 min read

This week’s featured state park, Sluice Boxes, is brought to you by Central Montana tourism!

Outside of Belt, you’ll find Sluice Boxes State Park, a unique park that includes Belt Creek Canyon, a creek, and remnants of Montana history.

Did you know?
The Barker Mines and the Montana Central Railroad are part of the history of Sluice Boxes State Park.

Carved by Belt Creek as it comes down from the Little Belt Mountains, the large limestone cliffs and steep ledges are the signatures of Belt Creek Canyon.

Did you know?
By September of 1890, the Central Montana Railroad dropped off fishermen at various locations along Belt Creek in what is now Sluice Boxes State Park.  When Belt Creek was named a blue-ribbon trout stream in the 1920s, the railroad ran special “fishing trains” on Sundays.

This area was once home to prospectors searching for precious metals, miners, muleskinners, smelter men, and railroaders building bridges. Today, visitors can find the remnants of mines, cabins, and a railroad along the banks of Belt Creek in the park.

Sluice Boxes State Park was created in 1974 and included significant historic structures and remnants of the abandoned towns of Riceville and Albright that once existed for the purpose of mining limestone in the canyon.

Belt Creek which formed the canyon that is the centerpiece of the park, has long been popular for outdoor recreation. Citizens of nearby Great Falls began visiting the area for fishing, camping, hunting, and other activities as early as 1889 when the railroad connecting silver mines in the Barker and Hughesville mining districts to smelters in Great Falls was completed.

The park is now popular with local visitors, history enthusiasts, fishermen, hikers, and others. The rugged landscape creates dramatic scenery as it contrasts distinctly with the rolling hills and rounded mountains of this part of central Montana.

A walk down the old railroad grade trail will bring you to fishing access, floating, swimming, and wildlife viewing. Be aware: steep cliffs, rugged terrain, and cold, swift water can pose a risk to visitors, so be sure to take caution!

If you’re looking to camp, you’ll need a Backcountry Campsite Permit. You can contact Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks headquarters in Great Falls to do so.

In 2017, the Montana State Parks Foundation partnered with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to begin fundraising and planning for significant improvements to the trails at Sluice Boxes State Park. The Foundation is working with Parks to secure permanent access at the Overlook Trailhead before creating a durable, safe pathway for visitors to enter the steep canyon and cross a year-round spring before connecting with existing park trails. The Foundation will also be assisting Montana FWP in repairing and reopening sections of damaged railroad trestles that have been converted into trails over the years. These trestles are currently closed for the safety of park visitors which prevents the ability of hikers to walk the seven miles of trail from one end of the park to the other.

In the coming year, we hope to secure the funds and agreements needed to complete these improvements and enhance the experience for many park visitors. We invite you to join us by making a one-time or recurring monthly donation to the Foundation for this project. You can learn more about this project and the other work we are doing for Montana State Parks on our website.

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