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Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park 1

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Located just east of Whitehall, MT, lies the Lewis and Clark Caverns. Discovered in 1892 by local hunters, these caverns went on to become Montana's first state park.

As one of the largest known limestone cavern systems in the northwest, Montanans have been exploring the caves for over 100 years!

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Interested in tours?

Access to the cave is by guided tours only, May through September with limited candlelight tours offered in December. Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park also features camping and a network of trails to hike or bike, a state-of-the-art visitor center, interpretive displays, a gift shop, food and beverage concessions, amphitheater, and interpretive events presented during the summer months.

Looking to camp?

The park has a large campground with 40 campsites, a tipi, and three cabins, which you can reserve online, and a group camping area, which you must contact the park to reserve. There is a $5 charge to use the dump station.

The site encompasses 3,015 acres. The entry area is at an elevation of 4,300 feet and the caverns area is at an elevation of 5,300 feet.

Cave access is only available through the guided tour. You will be asked to please wear a mask. 

Cavern Tours are now being offered. 

Special procedures for the safety of our visitors and staff:

Only Paradise tours offered at this time. The Paradise tour will guide you to the largest, most decorated rooms of the cave. Tour length is approximately 1 mile and the tour takes about 1 1/2 hours.

The tours are first come, first served starting May 28, 2021 and through September 30, 2021.

Tickets are limited.

Paradise Tours will be offered Friday-Monday, hourly from 9:15am-5:15pm.

Bring a face covering. Face coverings are required during cave tours.

Although optional for other areas of the park. Park disinfecting procedures involve using a bleach solution.

Visitors should consider wearing new or very clean gloves, especially in the caverns where the handrails are cleaned with bleach solution every tour.

Because of group size restrictions, tours are very limited. Park facilities that are open now are disinfected intermittently. We suggest visitors bring hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes for personal use.

Paradise Tour 

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1 mile / 90 minutes
Schedule: Beginning May 22, 2020 Friday-Monday, offered hourly, 9:15 am-5:15 pm. Cost: $15 / person, 15 years & older; $10 for seniors, persons with a disability, and youth ages 5-14 years; children 4 years & under are free.

Pre-registration and pre-payment required. To reserve tour tickets, learn how to prepare for your visit or discover current Park restrictions, call (406) 287-3541.

Tickets are limited. Call for tickets even if it is the day you’d like to take a tour. Walk a level ½ mile trail to see the Paradise Room, the largest, most active and decorated portion of the cave. Part of the tour is wheelchair accessible.

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park features one of the largest known limestone caverns in the Northwest.

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

"The caverns are amazing and the tours are fantastic. I have been through several times over the years and always loved the experience. The candlelight tours in the winter are amazing for the experience and historic aspects, but the summer tours really show off the caverns with the lights. All of the guides are passionate about their jobs and the caves, and love to teach. Great place to visit and bring friends and family."

"Absolutely beautiful! The bats are very cool to see as well! Can't wait to see it again."

"These Caverns are a jewel. The drive to the caverns winds along the Jefferson River, with cliffs adorning the sides of the road. Our party were excited to to the Caverns today, as it was the rare tour through the cave system with candles!!! This Candlelight tour is offered only at Christmas. What a treat!! The vision of the fellow participants weaving among the cave features is idyllic. It is surprising how much light the candlelight can make in the total dark. This is a best kept secret. The tour guides are top notch."

"A truly fascinating and unique experience! Amazing formations of nature. A true treasure. Outstanding tour and educational experience. Highly recommend!"

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Campground

    Open

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    Water

    Available May 2 - Sept 30.

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    Showers & Comfort Station

    Available May 2 - Sept 30

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    Visitor Center

    Normal hours: Winter hours, October 7 - April 13: Open Wed - Sun, 10 am - 4 pm. Summer hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm daily; Open until 6:30pm in mid-summer.

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    Location

    25 Lewis and Clark Caverns Rd. Whitehall, MT 59759

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