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Helena-area outdoor briefs: Lewis and Clark Caverns open by reservation and upcoming programs

Helena-area outdoor briefs: Lewis and Clark Caverns open by reservation and upcoming programs

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Lewis and Clark Caverns

Visitors to the Lewis and Clark Caverns approach the entrance in this Missoulian file photo.

Lewis & Clark Caverns now open daily by reservation

Montana State Parks and Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park announced the caverns will open for daily tours, by reservation. This comes after several weeks of operating only four days per week.

“We are seeing high demand for our tour offerings,” said Park Manager Rhea Armstrong. “This increase in capacity allows us a better opportunity to serve the public, while keeping staff and visitors safe.”

Reservations are required, as tours are operating on a limited basis. At this time, only Paradise Tours are available. This 1.5-hour, 1-mile walking tour allows access to the largest and most decorated room of the cave system, while still allowing for social distancing in 10-person groups. Nonrefundable payment in full is required at the time of booking. For reservations, call 406-287-3541.

Visitors must wear masks or face coverings on the tour. Those with sensitive skin may want to wear clean gloves, as staff cleans the handrails with a bleach solution. The cave is 48 degrees Fahrenheit, so a light jacket is recommended. No strollers or baby backpacks are allowed.

No clothing or other items that have been in another cave or mine are permitted inside Lewis & Clark Caverns. This measure is in place to help protect resident bat populations from a deadly fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, present in other caves throughout the world.

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park features one of the most decorative limestone caverns in the Northwest filled with spectacular stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and helictites. The park also features camping, 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.

For more information about these or other events at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, call 406-287-3541, or visit http://stateparks.mt.gov/lewis-and-clark-caverns/

To get to Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, 25 Lewis & Clark Caverns Road in Whitehall:

From the exit 274 on I-90, we are 13 miles south on Highway 287 and 5 miles west on MT 2.

From the Cardwell exit 256 on I-90 we are 7 miles east along MT 2.

Northern goshawks and underground history programs

Montana State Parks (stateparks.mt.gov) and Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park will host two free presentations this weekend. “The Private Lives of Northern Goshawks – Montana’s Elusive Mountain Hawk” and “Underground History.”

On Friday, July 3, at 8 p.m. join Dr. Jack Kirkley in taking an up-close-and-personal look into the behavior of northern goshawks, an awesome Montana bird of prey that nests in our high mountain forests. Kirkley will discuss what he has learned about the lives and deaths of these elusive year-around residents of the Northern Rockies and his experiences tracking and researching them.

This is the seventh presentation in Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park’s annual Friday Summer Speakers Series, which will continue each Friday at 8 p.m. throughout the summer.

UM-Western Professor of Biology Jack Kirkley has been studying these hawks in southwestern Montana since 1993. Over the years, Kirkley's studies have involved radio-tracking over 60 instrumented adults and a dozen fledgling hawks, monitoring and measuring habitat features of 50 historical nesting territories, and, in some years, closely watching the nesting behavior of goshawk families from observation blinds.

  • What: “The Private Lives of Northern Goshawks – Montana’s Elusive Mountain Hawk” with Dr. Jack Kirkley
  • When: Friday, July 3, from 8 to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Campground Amphitheater

On Saturday, July 4, at 8 p.m., join Park Ranger Julia Smit with a talk titled “Underground History: The Story of Development in Lewis & Clark Caverns.” How did we get from the cave’s discovery by two locals in 1892, to modern visitation at 60,000 visitors annually? It started with a lot of hard work. This talk will guide visitors through the early development in the cave, the CCC era, and on to modern construction.

  • What: “Underground History”
  • When: Saturday, July 4, from 8 to 9 p.m.
  • Where: Campground Amphitheater

Visitors to both events must keep in mind social distancing guidelines and in cases where these guidelines are difficult to meet or where spacing is not practical, visitors should wear masks.

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