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Spring Meadow Lake State Park 3

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Spring Meadow Lake State Park

Located west of Helena is Spring Meadow Lake State Park, a day-use park, popular for swimming, sunbathing, fishing and birdwatching.

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Looking for wildlife?

There are great wildlife viewing opportunities at Spring Meadow Lake State Park. You’ll find birds, rabbits, turtles and more! Looking for a nice walk? A 0.8-mile, self-guided nature trail circles the lake.

If you’re in need of a spot to fish, Spring Meadow Lake is your place. The lake is home to trout, bass and sunfish and there is even an ADA accessible fishing dock added to the park in 2011!

Even in winter, Spring Meadow Lake is perfect for recreation. The trail is open all winter and if it’s cold enough you can even fish or skate on the lake!

Unfortunately, your four-legged friend will have to stay home during the warmer months. Between April 15 and October 15 there are no dogs allowed in Spring Meadow Lake State Park.

Spring Meadow Lake State Park is a fed by a natural spring that feeds cool, clean water into the lake that is used for fishing, swimming, non-motorized boating, and even scuba diving. The lake and the state park land surrounding it were once an active gravel mine that was donated to the state in 1981.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Nice quite little state park inside of Helena. Relaxing place to picnic, fish, swim or small boat/kayak."

"Great place to take the family out for the day and even get some fishing in. Located right in the heart of Helena, it is not out of the way at all and certainly worth a trip even just to hang out for lunch. The view is really nice, especially for being right in town that you would never even know."

"Great family park for Helena. Well maintained and kid-friendly swimming areas balanced with nice trails and fishing areas."

"Spring Meadow Lake State Park is the crown jewel among all the local parks. It is close to town, so people who can't go too far afield on their own (kids, for instance) can get there on foot or by bicycle. The lake itself is also a gem - it is usually clear, and it is always deep, cold, spring-fed and full of fish that everybody and anybody can try to catch. Helena is blessed with abundant parks and lots of nearby venues for outdoor fun but compared to any other urban parks and fishing spots anywhere, Helena's Spring Meadow Lake State Park cannot be beat."

 

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    Park

    Open 6 am to 10 pm

    Year-Round

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    Location

    2715 Country Club Drive Helena, MT 59601

Pictograph Cave State Park 4

Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park

Pictograph Cave State Park lies just outside of Billings, MT. This park features three caves that are preserved and protected in the 23-acre state park.

Along the rimrocks, you'll find where Pictograph Cave has drawn human beings for over 3,000 years and was home to generations of prehistoric hunters.

We are able to bring you valuable information about this amazing state park thanks to the support of:

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Looking to camp?

With its abundant wildlife and vegetation, the fertile Yellowstone River valley just north of the park provided an ideal campsite for travelers. Inside the three caves at the park, you can find over 2,100-year-old pictographs from some of Montana's first inhabitants.

When and how these inhabitants arrived is still a mystery and the pictographs they left behind are still subject to great debate.

  • Transport yourself back in time by exploring the caves
  • Check out the Visitor Center and learn more about the history of the caves.
  • Eat your picnic while gazing out at incredible views.
  • Don’t forget to pick up a memento from the gift shop!
  • See if you can spot any wildlife near the caves.

Due to its archeological significance, Pictograph Cave State Park was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Thousands of years ago, prehistoric hunters who camped in the Pictograph Cave left behind artifacts and over 100 pictographs. The oldest art found at Pictograph Cave State Park is over 2,000 years old and from some of the very first humans on the plains.

The three main caves in the park - Pictograph, Middle, and Ghost - were created from the Eagle sandstone cliff by water and wind erosion. The deepest of the caves, Pictograph Cave, is 160 feet wide and 45 feet deep. In 1936 the first artifacts and paintings were discovered in the caves. Roughly 30,000 artifacts were excavated from the site including, stone tools, weapons, paintings, and instruments. These artifacts helped researchers understand which native people used the caves and when.

In addition to tools and animal bones, the excavations also turned up jewelry, pendants, bracelets, and beads crafted of seashells acquired from Pacific Coast Indians, and in one excavation, researchers discovered barbed harpoon points of the Eskimo culture, made of caribou horn.

At the Park today, you'll see pictographs depicting animals, warriors, and even rifles! The different colors used in the pictographs allowed researchers to identify when people inhabited the region and gave an inside look into their lifestyle. If you’re planning to visit, be sure to bring your binoculars to get the best view of the rock art and be sure to check out the Visitor’s Center which includes interpretive displays and a gift shop.

Depending on the season you can see mountain lions, black bears, turkeys, coyotes, porcupines, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, bald eagles, northern harriers, bobcats, mountain cottontails, rock doves, turkey vultures, mule deer, canyon wrens, magpies, ravens, crows, and chickadees.

The best time to see the pictographs is after rain or snowmelt! The moisture causes the drawings to become more prominent. And you'll give yourself about an hour to walk the trail with extra time for a picnic and bird watching.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Great place to spend a couple hours, lots of history and dog-friendly. Even in March, it’s a beautiful place to go. Could hear the cracking of the ice on the Yellowstone while looking at the caves."

"Be aware, if you are not from Montana, that you need to be snake smart as this is a habitat for rattlesnakes. Watch where you step and leave them alone if you see one and they will leave you alone."

"Really enjoyed this cave Included the Indian Heritage couple of steep climbs but overall a good walking experience."

"Went here with my kids, great staff and charming volunteers. Nicely laid out park, but I was most struck by realizing that I was standing in a spot that has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. Artifacts from this spot are twice the age of the Great Pyramids of Giza."

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Park Off Season (Third Monday in September - Third Thursday in May)

    Open Wednesday - Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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    Peak Season (Third Friday in May - Third Sunday in September)

    Park Open Daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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    Visitor Center

    Off-Season

    Open Wednesday - Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    Peak Season

    Open Daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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    Additional Information

    Park and Visitor Center Closed:

    Thanksgiving, December 24, 25 & 31 and January 1

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    Location

    3401 Coburn Road Billings, MT 59101

Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park

Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park

Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park

This black-tailed prairie dog community is protected and preserved through the efforts of Montana State Parks, the Nature Conservancy, and the Montana Department of Transportation.

We are able to bring you valuable information about this amazing state park thanks to the support of:

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Prior to habitat destruction, this species may have been the most abundant prairie dog in central North America.

This species was one of two described by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the journals and diaries of their expedition.

Black-tailed prairie dogs live in colonies. Colony size may range from five to thousands of individuals, and may be subdivided into two or more wards, based on topographic features, such as hills. Wards are usually subdivided into two or more coteries, which are composed of aggregates of highly territorial, harem-polygynous social groups.

Individuals within coteries are amicable with each other and hostile towards outside individuals. At the beginning of the breeding season, a coterie is typically composed of one adult male, three to four adult females, and several yearlings and juveniles of both sexes.

The parking area to watch the prairie dogs is disabled accessible and pets are allowed, but MUST BE ON LEASH.

A golf course is located nearby in Big Timber and also five museums.

This park is day use only.

The black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) is a rodent of the family Sciuridae found in the Great Plains of North America from about the United States-Canada border to the United States-Mexico border.

Unlike some other prairie dogs, these animals do not truly hibernate. The black-tailed prairie dog can be seen above ground in midwinter.

Interpretive displays tell the story of these small, entertaining prairie dogs and their role in the prairie ecosystem. These creatures have great ecological significance because they create patches of habitat that provide prey, shelter, and forage for a diverse number of animals, including burrowing owls, black-footed ferrets, and mountain plovers.

Enjoy the prairie dogs with your binoculars and cameras, but please do not feed them. The digestive tracts of wild animals are specifically adapted to natural foods; human foods can compromise their health and survival.

The site is 98 acres in size and is situated at 3,600 feet in elevation.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"It was amazing if you are driving by, take the time to stop!"

"Quick stop off the highway to see some Prairie Dogs. During the winter the gates are locked but they allow foot visitors to walk on the path. Very windy most days but worth a short stop to see some little furry friends."

"Great road trip stop, bring binoculars to see them up close!"

"It's a brief stop but so worth it! Prairie Dogs are always out and chripin! Picnic benches but no restrooms. Park fee for people out of state. Quick on and off Highway access."

 

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    Park

    Open All Year - Day Use only

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    Walk-In access only

    November 1 - April 1

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    Location

    Old US Hwy 10 Greycliff, MT 59033

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park

Located South of Great Falls and just outside of Ulm, First Peoples Buffalo Jump is one of the largest buffalo jumps in the United States and is known in the archeology community as the most significant buffalo jump in the world! Evidence suggests that this site, also known as the Ulm Pishkin, may have been the most frequently used buffalo jump in the world.

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Park history

A 6,000 square foot Visitor Center helps to pay homage to both the buffalo and the Native American’s who honor it. Inside you’ll find buffalo culture exhibits, a circle for storytelling, a classroom, a gallery, and a bookstore!

Outside the Visitor Center are an outdoor amphitheater and even a few traditional games playing fields. The cliffsides now offer up amazing views to visitors from all over the world.

At the base of the cliff, you can see 18 feet of compact buffalo remains, but it can be difficult to make out distinct items like skulls or other bones after so many years. The original name of the park “Ulm Pishkin” comes from the Blackfeet word "Pis'kun," meaning "deep kettle of blood”. The mile-long cliff ranges from 30 to 50 feet in height, any higher and meat may have been damaged and unusable. Of the over 300 buffalo kill sites in Montana, First Peoples Buffalo Jump is one of only three that are protected.

Native tribes would stampede herds of bison off the cliff and collect the remains below. Bison meat served as a main staple in the early Native American diets of the region. While this form of hunting was very popular and safe compared to the alternatives it was not the most common.

Ambush killing, where the hunters would sneak up to the animal before attacking, was the most frequent way for them to provide food, tools, and clothing to their families. It was very dangerous due to the size and strength of the animal. Because of this many of these sites are considered sacred. Ambush hunting became less and less utilized as the horse came onto the scene, allowing hunters to keep pace with the bison and guide them more effectively to sites like this and eventually as they began breeding horses even the buffalo jump became obsolete. Giving way to mounted hunters who could chase, kill, and carry back the precious remains.

The most accepted theory as to the use of “Buffalo Jumps” has the hunters slowly encircling the herds and pushing them towards the area. It could take hours if not days and was very dangerous.

As the herds would draw closer and closer to the cliffs they would be guided to a specific spot by others using low fences made of twisted vines and large rocks. These “Drive Lines” can still be found today. They extended sometimes over a quarter of a mile away.

Once the Buffalo had reached their holding spot the hunters would approach, sometimes wearing wolf pelts and sneaking on all fours, and when the time was right they would jump up shouting and making loud noises creating a stampede.

The fastest and bravest of the hunters, called “Buffalo-Runners” would dance in front of the herds leading them over the cliff. Often jumping to a safe spot just below the ledge.

After the herd had gone over or dispersed the women, children, and elders would move through the aftermath killing any that may have survived and then processing and harvesting as much of the animal as possible.

Plan to spend at least two hours at First Peoples Buffalo Jump to make time for the many activities!

*Notice!: Due to recent world-wide events Visitors Centers, Regional Offices, Ranger Stations, Campgrounds, and other facilities including many restrooms are now closed to the public. MT FWP is monitoring the situation and making changes to their policy on a rolling two week basis.

Years after the area was settled it became a cattle ranch and eventually mining area. Eventually, in the 1950s the bone itself began to be mined before a local rancher named Earl Monroe leased the land to protect it from further destruction.

Earl kept the land off-limits to the public while under his care. The land went through many hands and many legal battles over the years before finally coming under the protection of the state in the late ‘90s and becoming a full-fledged state park in the year 2000.

 

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"The museum itself was extremely neat and clean. It's a small establishment that you can tour yourself - which I LOVED! The 2 guides were helpful and answered any questions that we had regarding the jump. I would absolutely suggest this place to anyone visiting the Great Falls area."

"What a piece of history we knew nothing about. Fascinating and then taking the drive to the cliffs I couldn't imagine running ahead of a herd of buffalo and at the last minute jumping over the edge to safety. This park is definitely worth a visit. Make the time."

"Great history and amazing views of the valley. A great 1 mile hike up to the buffalo jump cliff, or take the road around the other side of you don't want to hike it. Restroom is available in the visitors building and near the cliff."

"What a great place to see. It is so peaceful and tranquil. I enjoyed it so very much."

 

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    Park

    Summer - open daily.
    Winter - open Wednesday through Sunday.

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    Summer Hours 

    Visitor Center and Upper Access Area: 4/15 - 9/16: 8 am - 6 pm daily

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    Winter Hours

    Visitor Center and Upper Access Area: 9/17 - 3/31 10 am - 4 pm Wed - Sat and 12 pm - 4 pm Sun.

    Closed Monday & Tuesday

    The gates at the top of the Jump may be closed during times of deep snow.

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    Location

    342 Ulm -Vaughn Rd. Ulm, MT 59485