Monday, August 1, 2016

Caving in Montana - Lewis and Clark Caverns

Before leaving the Big Hole Basin we stop by and spend a little time with a Sister on the Fly member who lives on the Big Hole River.  We had talked about getting together when I saw her last at the Farm Chick Event at Riverside State Park.

One of the great aspects of Sister on the Fly, a group of camping women that I belong to is a Program called Sisters on the Curb.  Members who can accommodate  a visitor with her little camper can be added to a list and when members are nearby they can camp at there home.  Kristin offers her curb and it truly is a special place to come for a visit.

She and her husband have a beautiful log house right on the river in a tiny little town named Melrose.  How serene and idyllic it is as it sits nestled in a bend of the river on five acres of prime fly fishing real estate.  Of course when you live there you would see projects and all the work that it takes to keep a beautiful place going.

The old log cabin guest house

I  found it spectacular in its rustic beauty and marveled at the quiet pace of life along the soothing flow of river.   With there own wildlife, a nesting osprey and deer who visit often, we were also treated to fisherman who floated by in their quest for the big one.

In addition to Kristin and her husband, her granddaughter, Hannah who is 10, was visiting from Arizona and she and Hailey had a great time.  They painted nails, braided Hannah’s hair and watched movies and of course they played in the river.  One night that we were there, they barbecued and the following night I made Chicken Alfredo with fresh mushrooms and broccoli.  We had a lovely visit and were off to see a Lewis and Clark Caverns.

Lewis and Clark Caverns  


Lewis and Clark Caverns were named for Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, whose travels brought them along the Jefferson River in 1805.  The opening to the caverns sit 1400 feet above the river and open up a wonder of beautiful sights ready to be explores.

Known and revered to Native American local tribes it was a sacred place.  Then in the late 1800's local ranchers discovered the opening to the caverns but it was later determined the ownership of the land was owned by the local railroad company who built a tram to the cave opening it for visiting by tourists.  It later became a National  Monument then later reverting to a Montana State Park.

View from the visitor center up on the mountain

Tickets to join the underground tours are reasonable and leave hourly through the summer months.  ($16 adults, $14 seniors).  We only had to wait one hour to join the next tour which gave us plenty of time for a lunch break before entering the cave. 

There is a half-mile walk to the entrance of the cave with a gain of 300 feet but the time in the cave is not physically demanding.  The entire walk takes a little over 2 hours and is about 2 miles.  


This is an active cave which still sees water presence and dripping that leads to new formations. During the large earthquake in 1959, literately no damage was done within the caverns.  However, some damage to the formations took place during blasting to form the tunnels that is seen today.

viewing the color alterations through the broken formation

  In the early days of the caverns, some people attempted to break off some of the formations as a memento.    In many cases the active formations are continuing to add to the formations today.  Guided tours have led to better preservation, less destruction and continued preservation of this natural wonder.

Popcorn ceiling, Cave style
You sit on the 'slide' and down you go

Many different types of formations are viable and my only regret was feeling like I could have spent much more time taking in the beauty of the structures.  Our guide who had been a teacher in his earlier life was engaging and very informative about both the history and the formations.  He in fact had designed a  coloring book that he gave to kids of all ages that also contain lots of fun facts.

Petrified bat encased in the limestone

While there is variation of colors within the caverns, I found the use of artificial colored lighting unnecessary and a bit overwhelming an prefer the natural colors that are present through most of the tour.  There was plenty of oohing and awing at the red colors in the Paradise Room.   

It was disbanded as a national monument on August 24, 1937, and transferred to the state of Montana. On April 22, 1938, the  cave was declared  Montana's first State Park.

There is also a Montana State Campground with full facilities with some electricity, showers and dump station at the base of the mountain which is the only camping nearby.  Reservations are utilized at the campground so if camping is desired you would need to make a reservation in advance.

While we were in the Cavern, a thunder storm blew through and after we emerged we were greeted with this rainbow eyebrow as we drove down from the mountain.

Happy Trails


1 comment:

  1. Love the little and big cabin how nice of them to allow friends to curb. the rest of the trip looks amazing love the caves.