Gates of the Mountains

On the evening of July 19,1805, the Corps of Discovery led by Captains Meriwether Lewis and Willam Clark was on the Missouri River in Montana, slowly moving upstream. Rock embankments made towing their boats from shore impossible and the deep channel forced the men to row rather than pole their boats forward. Suddenly, there loomed before them towering rock formations unlike any they had ever seen. In his journal, Lewis described what the party encountered:

"This evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. These clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of 1200 feet. Every object here wears a dark and gloomy aspect. the tow(er)ing and projecting rocks in many places seem ready to tumble on us. The river appears to have forced it’s way through this immence body of solid rock for the distance of 5 ¾ miles and where it makes it’s exit below has thrown on either side vast collumns of rocks mountains high.... From the singular appearance of this place I called it the gates of the rocky mountains."

Today, visitors can experience the Gates of the Mountains from aboard tour boats that operate several 105-minute cruises daily from Memorial Day through mid-September. Look for Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours three miles off Interstate 15 between Helena and Great Falls.

Great towering walls of limestone still stand guard over the river as they did 200 years ago. The tour boat pilots cruise close to shore, where Indian pictographs can be seen on the rock walls, a reminder of the indigenous peoples who visited the canyon long before Meriwether named it the Gates of the Mountains.

Bighorn sheep and Mountain Goats graze amid the rocks high above the river while ospreys, eagles, vultures and falcons soar on the updrafts. The canyon is also home to otters, deer, squirrels, ermine, beaver, mountain lions, black bears and other wild creatures.

The tour boats stop for a 15-minute break at Meriwether Picnic Area halfway through the tour. Visitors can disembark at this point and complete their trip on a later boat. The picnic area provides access to hiking trails leading into the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area.

Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours
PO Box 478 Helena, MT 59624
e-mail tcrawford@in-tch.com

Traveling the Lewis and Clark Trail 
by Julie Fanselow
Falcon, 2003

The third edition of this practical guidebook, updated for the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, details where to find historic sites and natural areas relating to the 1804-06 Corps of Discovery. 

Tracing the entire route from Missouri to the Pacific Coast and back, this book divides the trail into seven regional sections, beginning with an "Eastern Legacy" section tracing the roots of the expedition in Virginia, Washington, D.C, and along the Ohio River. It concludes with sites in Oregon and Washington where the explorers overwintered.

Throughout the book there are tips and lists of activities, attractions and visitor amenities on or near the trail. 

Bicycling the Lewis and Clark Trail
by Marion Tinling
Falcon, 2003

This guidebook details the routes and riding conditions for cycling the Lewis and Clark Trail in 40 daily rides ranging from 45 to 113 miles in length.

Compiled by travel writer Michael McCoy with the help of the Adventure Cycling Association, the book is illustrated with scenic black-and-white and color photos by cycling photographer Dennis Coello. Detailed route maps and mileage logs are included to keep riders on course.

An excellent resource for the experienced long-distance cyclist as well as the casual tourist, this book will be found in the panniers of  many bikes between Hartford, Illinois, and Astoria, Oregon.


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