Park to Park Memories
In honor of the coming centennial of the National Parks Service, SouthWest Montana bloggers Bert and Katya sat down to share some of their favorite memories of visiting Montana's National Parks. During the conversation, the same topics kept coming up. Below is an edited version of the conversation:On driving:
Nearly all of my memories from Yellowstone stem around a whirlwind day trip through the park. On a mission to see all of the sights and sounds, we wove our way through the park, stopping only for the most notable landmarks: the Painted Pots, the Upper and Lower Falls of the Yellowstone, and of course Old Faithful. A picnic in the car, and the tales of my parents and grandmother's childhood visits to the park kept us entertained as we stared out the window. Bert:
We made it all the way from Two Medicine to Kiowa Junction (15 whole miles!) and the transmission on our van went out. So there we were. Sitting in the parking lot of the Kiowa store (Kiowa, in case you didn't know, consists entirely of the store and the parking lot). Luckily we also had a truck, two of our number hitched the van to the truck and headed toward Helena, to try and get the van fixed. How did we get back from Kiowa? I am not sure. We clearly made it back, but all I remember is sitting in the parking lot, waiting. We crammed into other vehicles and made the drive over Going-to-the-Sun. Because transmission or no transmission, a Glacier trip without Going-to-the-Sun is simply inconceivable.On hiking:
When you think about visiting a national park, one of the first things that may come to mind is hiking, it's the perfect way to stay active, spend time with the family, and continue to explore some of the "best kept secrets" in the parks. In 2005 (when my sister was 4 years old), our family, grandparents included, decided that during our annual trip to Glacier we would hike Dawson Pass starting from the Two Medicine campground. A 9 mile hike that would gain 2500 feet, and provide a spectacular view from the ridge of the Continental Divide looking into the valleys below. Although completing the Dawson Pass hike was a feat that will always be remembered, the preparation for the trip holds even more memories. Countless hikes up Mount Helena were mastered--actually, countless consecutive hikes up the mountain were mastered. According to our grandfather, we really needed to ensure that we were prepared for the elevation gain. The obvious course of action was to then hike the same mountain, the same trail twice.On escaping reality:
When I was in third grade, some relatives made a trip from Sweden, and wanted to spend time in Yellowstone. So one Friday my parents took me out of school around lunchtime (I told everyone I was going to the Grand Canyon, in retrospect, I'm not sure I made it clear that I was headed to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone). I remember a sky the color of granite and flurries of snow that melted on contact. I also remember realizing for the first time that we would take the same road to get to Virginia City as we did to get to Yellowstone. We made it to the campground with huge wet flakes falling around us. We went into the RV for a quick snack, and realized we couldn't go out again. A herd of bison and their calves had decided to take up residence in our campground. We brewed more hot chocolate, and whiled away the day watching the snow fall thickly on the hides of the bison. Katya:
Glacier lakes, carved out by the giant ice fields that gave the park its name, have a tendency to drop off quickly from the shore, making them the perfect place to dive in… that is as long as you can handle the cold temperatures! Swimming has always been a featured aspect of our trips, but the memories that I will keep forever are sitting on the shore with my grandpa learning to skip rocks. In those moments, nothing else mattered. The lake was still, the mountains stood as guardians, and nothing could break the serenity of the moment.
For the bloggers at SouthWest Montana, all parks stories are SouthWest Montana stories. All parks stories begin and end in SouthWest Montana. Whether we are preparing for our trips by hiking hometown hills, or desperately trying to salvage a trip with a quick 3 hour trip to a Helena mechanic, SouthWest Montana always features in our tales of adventure, in the parks and beyond.
Park to Park: 10 Things to See Along the Way
Glacier Park Lodge, East Glacier
One of the most popular road trips in the state is to drive from one National Park to the other, but this trek from Yellowstone to Glacier covers over 270 miles, leaving plenty of exploration between the two! Here are some suggestions for what to do on the original route from Park to Park!
So here we go, a trip from West Yellowstone to East Glacier:
1. Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center | West Yellowstone, MT
The Center is an AZA (American Zooliogical Association) accredited non-profit. It takes bears, wolves, and raptors that couldn't survive in the wild-either because they were orphaned, problems, injured, or bred in captivity-and gives them stimulating natural homes.
2. Norris Hot Springs | Norris, MT
Norris Hot Springs, or the self-proclaimed "water of the gods" is a geothermal feature located along the Madison River. Native Americans were known to use the springs for healing purposes before the time of the white settlers; then, in the 1860s, miners built the original pool. This is a great stop for a soak and an opportunity to take in the beautiful landscape, that some are lucky enough to call home.
3. Lewis & Clark Caverns | Whitehall, MT
The Lewis & Clark Caverns are Montana's first State Park and offers a beautiful campground, trailhead, discovery center, and of course tour of the caverns. The caverns have been shaped by the water in the area. Drop by drop the beautiful formations of stalagmites and stalactites have increased in size, number and majesty. This tour is roughly 2 miles long, and winds through an amazing natural formation.
4. Tizer Botanic Gardens & Arboretum | Jefferson City, MT
Set on 6 acres of land, Tizer Gardens offer an array of beautiful gardens to explore. While visiting, don't miss the Rose Garden, Wildflower Walk, Children's Garden, or the Secret Garden. This is the perfect place to pull off for a peaceful picnic lunch, stretch your legs, and appreciate all that nature has to offer.
Two Medicine Dinosaur Center, Bynum Montana
5. Cathedral of St. Helena | Helena, MT
The ground for the Cathedral was purchased and donated by Thomas Cruse in 1905, construction started in 1908 and it was completed June of 1924. The architect, Mr. A. O. Von Herbulis, suggested a Gothic style for the building which was then approved by the Building Committee and Advisory Board. Today, the Cathedral is open for tours and will not fail to strike your hearts with awe.
6. Archie Bray Foundation | Helena, MT
This institute was founded in 1951, as an environment to stimulate creativity in ceramic arts. This institute is internationally renowned as a "gathering place for emerging and established ceramic artists." You are free to wander around the grounds, poke your head in several studios, participate in Helena's Geotour, and appreciate the wonderful history that surrounds you.
7. Gates of the Mountains | Helena, MT
The Gates of the Mountains boat tour is a Helena staple, offering insight to the history of the beautiful area. A collection of stories, pictographs, rock formations, disasters, and discovery mark the land. In 1805, the Corps of Discovery paddled their boats through the area, watching the rocky cliffs appear to open and close their way of passage. In his journal, Meriwether Lewis wrote "I shall call this place: Gates of the Mountains."
8. Two Medicine Dinosaur Center | Bynum, MT
Museum of the Plains Indian, Browning Montana
This center was established in 1995, and since its conception has brought in over 5,000 visitors a year. TMDC is a nonprofit dedicated to providing a hands on educational experience to their visitors. In addition to their exhibits, the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center offers a unique opportunity to participate in an actual dinosaur dig, where you will learn field procedures, fossil recognition, excavation procedures, and area history.9. Museum of the Plains Indian | Browning, MT
As you enter into the land of the Blackfeet, you may be interested in learning more about the Native American culture and influence in the area. This museum highlights a variety of historic objects that were essential to the everyday lives of various Indian Tribes across the United States. Founded in 1941, this museum rich in history, artwork, and culture has helped to education many passing through the area.10. Glacier Park Lodge | East Glacier, MT
Nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountain Front, the Glacier Park Lodge has served as a natural stopping point for visitors since the opening of the park in 1910. This lodge was built by the Great Northern Railway in 1912 to satisfy the demand created by the travel. Located just miles outside of the entrance to the park, this beautiful building is the perfect place to make a quick stop for a bite to eat, a souvenir, a step back in time, a quick cup of coffee, or a nice resting place for the evening, before finishing your journey from Park to Park.
The Benton Road
The route from Yellowstone to Glacier meets all the requirements of a perfect road-trip road: it is well maintained, it's short enough to allow for plenty of stops along the way, the scenery is spectacular, and it is bookended by the best National Parks in the west. The route also follows one of the oldest and most important trails in Montana: the Benton Road.
By 1843, Fort Benton was, technically the most inland seaport in the world, because you could take a boat from Fort Benton all the way down the Missouri and Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic. In the late 1850s, the army put Captain John Mullan, already an accomplished road-builder and explorer in the area, in charge of building a road between Fort Benton and Walla Walla, Washington. The Mullan Trail followed the Missouri from Fort Benton, through the Wolf Creek Canyon, and into the Helena valley before turning west to Missoula and beyond. Mullan had established this route in the early 1850s, but the construction of the Trail allowed him to survey and expand the road.
With the 1862 discovery of gold in Bannack, enterprising freighters realized the advantage of a road that linked Bannack to Fort Benton. So they made roads from the Helena Valley south to Bannack. The discovery of gold in Alder Gulch came quick on the heels of the Bannack discovery, and the "Benton Road" became established: branching south from the Mullan Trail in the Helena Valley, running south through the Boulder River Valley and into the Madison River Valley before turning west through Alder Gulch and into the Beaverhead Valley to Bannack. The Benton Road proved even more useful with the discovery of gold in Last Chance Gulch in 1864 since the road already went right through the Helena Valley. However, the road did not go into the Gulch itself-it was much too crowded for wagon teams-and it didn't follow the route of present-day Benton Avenue.
Beyond Helena, Highway 287 branches off from the Mullan Trail, following instead the much older "Old North Trail" that runs abreast of the Rocky Mountain Front and was used extensively by the Blackfeet and other Native tribes.
Bannack, Virginia City, and Helena were all capitals of Montana in their turn. They were also the sites of the three most important gold discoveries in Montana, and some of the largest placer gold deposits in the country. The Benton Road became a well-travelled thoroughfare-the backbone of the state. The road also linked Montana to the rest of the world. At its northern end, the road linked to the Missouri River. At its southern end, the road linked to a trail to branches of the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail and, in 1869, the Union Pacific Railroad. Trade goods and settlers streamed into Montana from both ends of the Benton Road.
As you drive from Yellowstone to Glacier, you follow the Benton Road-first on Highway 287, then Highway 69, then Interstate 15-all the way to Wolf Creek. As you drive, try to imagine the stage coaches, mule trains, and freight wagons that followed the same route: without asphalt or air conditioning, crossing and re-crossing Prickly Pear Creek; thousands of travelers and millions of dollars of gold wending their way through the heart of early Montana.
SouthWest Montana June Events
SouthWest Montana comes alive in the summer with festivals, events, and activities galore. Whether you prefer rodeos set against the stark backdrop of the Rocky Mountain front, or enchanted gardens on gurgling creeks, there sure to be something that will tickle your fancy this June.
Gears for Beer, Virginia City - The 2nd Annual Virginia City mountain bike poker ride starts at the Bale of Hay Saloon at 9:00 AM, and takes participants on 18 miles of poker playing mountain biking through scenic Alder Gulch.
Territorial Days, Deer Lodge - From the "Prison Break" fun run to the night-time live music, Deer Lodge's annual summer celebration features all sorts of vendors and activities.
Grand Victorian Ball, Virginia City
- Travel back to 1864 for a weekend celebration of the past. Attend a Victorian High Tea, classic melodrama, and the Ball itself, featuring fashion from 150 years ago. Oh, and don't miss the Bale of Hay's Brothel Days on Saturday and Sunday.
Brews, Blues and BBQ, Philipsburg -The name says it all, a day of beer, live blues, and bbq competition in Philipsburg, Montana.
Fairy and Wizard Festival, Tizer Gardens -On this whimsical day, Tizer Gardens comes alive with magic, fun for all ages, come dressed as your favorite fairy-tale creature, meet fairy godmothers and trolls, play in the garden and listen to stories.
American Legion Rodeo, Augusta - One of the largest one-day rodeos in Montana, the Augusta Rodeo has become a summer staple in Montana, one of the best rodeos in the state.
For even more events and activities, visit the SouthWest Montana events calendar.
Getting the Last of the Gold: Hydraulic Mining
Panning for gold in Bannack
The gold fields of Alder Gulch and Last Chance Gulch were two of the biggest placer gold deposits in the world. Placer deposits consist of loose particles of gold mixed into topsoil, sand, and gravel. Placer gold is near the surface. The easiest way to get placer gold is to wash loads of sand/gravel/etc., the heavy gold particles sink while the lighter dirt and rock and sand particles wash out with the water. This is the method used when panning for gold. As well as when you use a sluice or rocker. In Montana, miners started out by digging the topsoil and running it through sluices. Eventually, however, all of the easy gold had been found. Prospectors either left, or turned to stronger methods of excavation, like hydraulicking.
In hydraulicking, miners would blast hillsides with water, causing high-speed erosion, like a pressure washer. They would direct the slurry of water and dirt through huge sluices. The gold would sink to the bottom and the water and dirt (tailings) would usually get dumped into the nearest creek. Hydraulicking was much more efficient than digging and hauling, but it was really bad for the environment. It was, after all, high-speed mass erosion. Hydraulicking tore apart entire hills, stripping them of topsoil and vegetation. Hydraulicked land was not good for anything else. The tailings-the sand and gravel left over-were either just dumped, leaving giant piles of waste to mar the countryside, or were dumped into streams. That much sediment in the water caused the streams to change course, shift direction, or flood unpredictably. Hydraulicking in the mountains could bury valleys in unusable tailings. The farmers of the Sacramento Valley actually sued miners on the basis that hydraulicking was ruining their farms. In Montana, you can still see evidence of extensive hydraulicking around both Bannack and Virginia City, as well as many of the other mining ghost towns in SouthWest Montana.
Goose Bay Handblown Glass
Once you walk past the friendly yellow facade, you immediately get the urge to hold your breath and walk on tiptoes. The towering shelves and the delicate glass vessels that fill every surface make you aware of your own awkwardness in a way you haven’t been since middle school.
After you get over the initial feeling that you are going to break everything in sight (but not too over the feeling—you don’t want to get careless), you begin to look around. Amid the swirls of translucent color, you begin to make out individual pieces: goblets, vases, decanters, pitchers, plates, bowls, baubles, balls. Delicate ripples of pigment, fading to clear.
The glassware at goose Bay Handblown Glass is exquisite, but that’s not why you should visit their shop in Townsend. You should visit to watch art happen before your eyes. The back of the store (congratulations, you made it that far without knocking anything over!) opens into a workshop, and an assortment of mismatched chairs, including at least on church pew, cluster around the wide door into the workshop, where almost every weekday owners Jim and Terry Gunderson create art out of blown glass.
It starts with a molten glob, I like to think of it as lava, but it is probably crystal. Whichever Gunderson happens to be making glass at the moment puts a glob of crystal onto a long pipe and into a homemade 2,800 degree furnace. Once the crystal gets nice and hot, almost too bright to look at, they take it out of the furnace and roll it through grains of dyed glass—which gives the finished pieces their characteristic swirling colors. Then they begin to work it, sometimes blowing through the tube, sometimes using tools, sometimes using molds. The whole process, from start to finish, only takes ten minutes or so. Ten mesmerizing minutes in which a hunk of melted rock blossoms into a delicate dish, like the bud of a flower.
The Gundersons started Goose Bay Glass in 2002 when Jim Gunderson decided to retire form blacksmithing. They opened the store in Townsend in 2003, so that people could watch the glass blowing take place.
The Bill White Bike Camp in Twin Bridges
Over the past seven years, the Twin Bridges bike camp has provided a welcome oasis to road bikers who are more used to paying exorbitant prices at RV campgrounds or furtively pitching their tents in parks and washing in public restrooms. The brain child of Twin Bridges local Bill White (the camp is now named in his honor), the camp sits in Jessen Park, on the edge of town near the Beaverhead River. In addition to level ground for tents, the camp provides an indoor seating area to eat, a kitchen area, an outdoor picnic area, bike-repair stands, a toilet, and a shower. In addition, the town of twin Bridges has a host of other amenities for the weary traveler: a laundromat, a few restaurants, free wifi in the library, and a grocery store that, in addition to all manner of fresh food, stocks common bicycle parks. Many bikers choose to take a few days off of their trip and spend the time exploring the Twin Bridges area, perhaps renting a canoe to float down the river or spending a day exploring nearby Virginia City.
Twin Bridges sits at the cross roads of two of Adventure Cycling's most popular bike trails. The Trans America Trail, the first trail mapped by the group, passes through Oregon and Idaho before entering Montana at Lolo Pass, near Missoula. From there it jogs south, passing Twin Bridges on its way to West Yellowstone, through parts of Wyoming and Colorado and then east to the Eastern Seaboard. Another Adventure Cycling trail-the Lewis and Clark Trail-passes through Twin Bridges as it follows the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific. In 2009-its first year-the Twin Bridges Bike Camp hosted over 300 bikers. Since then its popularity has only grown. I would imagine that Montana can be a daunting state to bike-what with its long, lonely stretches of highway, its rugged terrain, and its generally narrow roads-which makes the hospitality of Twin Bridges and its Bike Camp even more welcome.
11 Things to do on Highway 41 (Whitehall, Twin Bridges, and Dillon)
Let's say you have a day you don't know how to fill. I have a solution. Drive on Highway 41 from Whitehall to Dillon. Sure it's only a 50 mile drive, but the best kind of road trip involves a luxuriously late morning, and spending as much time out of the car as in it, and if it happens to start with an early morning root beer float from A&W, well, who am I to judge?
Start your day with a quick drive around Whitehall to look at the Lewis and Clark Murals. Painted in 2002 in celebration of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, the 10 murals highlight experiences of the Expedition as they passed through the Jefferson Valley. Then head south out of town on Highway 41 to Twin Bridges.
Everyone knows that a cowboy isn't complete without his hat, and Montana Mad Hatters in Twin Bridges makes the best hats you can find. Shelia Kirkpatrick has made hats for the likes of George H.W. Bush and Hank Williams, Jr. Each hat is handmade and customized to meet the wearer's needs, whether it's a special occasion hat or an everyday work hat. Even if you're not in the market for a piece of custom built, high quality, affordable headgear, it is still worth the time to stop at the store and take a look around.
Twin Bridges sits where the Big Hole, the Beaverhead, and the Ruby come together to form the Jefferson-an epicenter of blue ribbon fly fishing. Didn't come prepared? Fortunately the tiny town of Twin Bridges had not one, but two shops specializing in top-grade custom fly rods. For over 85 years, R.L. Winston Fly Co. has stayed on the cutting edge of fly fishing innovation. From old-fashioned bamboo to boron/graphite high-tech masterpieces, Winston has always stayed on top. In the mid-2000s, a few men, infused with the Winston tradition, started their own company, Sweetgrass Rods, with the intention of focusing only on old-fashioned bamboo rods. Over the past 10 years, Sweetgrass Rods has emerged as one the finest shops specializing in craft bamboo rods.
Once you've had your fill of the surprising amount of custom luxury in Twin Bridges, it's time to head to Dillon. On the way, stop at Beaverhead Rock State Park.
By now, it's got to be close to lunch, so your first stop should be Fiesta Mexicana Taco Bus.
People have been known to drive from as far away as Missoula and Bozeman, just to eat at this converted school bus. This is authentic Mexican food served in a unique setting and, let's face it, the other activities in this post are just window dressing-Fiesta Mexicana, that's the real reason for this trip. The Beaverhead River flows right through town, and after lunch you might want to try out your new fly rod. Of course even non-fisherpeople know that fish don't bite in the afternoon (except when they do) so, you should wait until evening. First stop, the Patagonia Outlet.
What with the tacos, cowboy hat, fly rod, and Patagonia, you may well have spent all of your money. If not, downtown Dillon features a number of unique stores. If you have, while away the time by wandering around the University of Montana Western
, poke your head into the UMW Art Gallery, and the Beaverhead County Museum
, look around Clark's Lookout State Park
, or drive 25 miles west to wander Bannack State Park
, one Montana's most famous ghost towns. After you're all nice and rested (and it's been 30 minutes since your last meal, just in case), you have my permission to hit the river, for some of the best fishing you can imagine.
11 Things to Know about SouthWest Montana History
1. Mining is kind of a Big Deal: The first large amounts of U.S. citizens came to SouthWest Montana because of mining. From placer mining to the open pit mining of the Berkley pit, the history of SouthWest Montana after 1863 is the history of mining and mining innovation. The Alder Gulch diggings were the richest placer gold fields ever discovered, and in its heyday, Butte was one of the world's largest producers of copper and silver. 2. There is a long Native American history:
The lack of a reservation means that it can be easy to forget about the Native American history in SouthWest Montana, but it shouldn't be overlooked. Bands of Shoshone travelled extensively in the area, and Bannack was named for the Bannock Indians encountered by the first prospectors. As early as 700 A.D., Natives considered the Gates of the Mountains area sacred, and local tradition holds that by common consent no warfare was allowed in the Boulder Valley. The Big Hole Battlefield near Wisdom is on the Nez Perce Trail, which commemorates Chief Joseph's historic flight from the U.S. Army. 3. Lewis and Clark are a Super Big Deal:
I don't know if you know this about the Northwest, and about Montana in particular, but we are obsessed with Lewis and Clark. Seriously, it is almost all we talk about. In fairness, L&C did spend nearly a quarter of their trip in Montana, and followed the Jefferson and Beaverhead Rivers across SouthWest Montana. Beaverhead Rock marks the meeting of the Expedition and the Shoshone tribe that led them across the mountains safely.4. SWMT history is more than just vigilantes (but vigilantes are also a Big Deal):
Seriously, the Vigilantes were only active for a few months in 1863-64, and yet no Montana history is complete without them. Why? Well, it is a pretty fascinating story, and it probably helped that many Vigilantes went on to
become some the most important public figures in early Montana. 5. It has always been the capital of Montana:
Bannack was the first territorial capital, then Virginia City, then Helena, and when it came time to pick a state capital, the race was between Anaconda and Helena (spoiler, Helena won). I don't know what conclusions you can draw from that, but there you are. 6. Butte:
Sure, it's underwhelming from I-90, but nothing beats Butte history. Butte was one of the largest producers of silver and copper and earned the title "Richest Hill on Earth." Butte was one of the first cities in the world with electricity, and had as much ethnic diversity as New York, Chicago, or San Francisco. It is a fascinating town with a rich history and a promising future. 7. Loads and loads of Irish:
During Butte's heyday, the Irish made up a quarter of the town's population, the highest concentration of Irish in any city in America. The 2010 Census called Butte the most Irish-American city in the country. Our first territorial governor was an Irish rebel, and for years Marcus Daly ruled Butte and Anaconda like an old-fashioned Irish chieftain. SouthWest Montana has a diversity of ethnic backgrounds, but the Irish are the most prominent. 8. The Civil War was also a Big Deal:
You might not think it (what with the whole not-being-a-state and no-where-near-the-war), but it was. Many of the first miners in Montana were Southerners (or from border states like Missouri) who fled west during and after the War. Early politics consisted mostly of Unionists trying to keep Southerners out of power, and vice-versa. It's probably no coincidence that Thomas Meagher was a Union brigadier general before he was appointed the first territorial governor. 9. There were lots of Chinese people:
At one time, SouthWest Montana was very ethnically diverse, but it is easy to forget about the Chinese population because the vast majority moved away. Forbidden from mining, East Asian immigrants worked on the railroad, opened mercantiles, laundromats, and restaurants. Some became influential civic and business leaders. Anti-Chinese laws and racism during World War II drove most of East Asians from Montana, but the culture lives on in places like the historic Mai Wah Museum in uptown Butte. 10. But not all of the stories about the Chinese were true:
If you want to get state historian Ellen Baumler riled up, mention Chinese tunnels. There are tunnels and basements under many Montana towns, but there is really no evidence these were the handiwork of the Chinese, or that anyone used the tunnels to mine for gold. 11. It's not all about Butte and Helena:
There were scores of mining camps (now mostly ghost towns) scattered across the region; Montana's first cattle and sheep pastured in this corner of the state; and the Jefferson and Madison River drainages offered mountain men a fortune in beaver pelts. Sure, Helena, Butte, mining, and vigilantes were all important, but when it comes to exploring SouthWest Montana, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
8 Things to do in a SouthWest Montana Spring
1. Lewis and Clark Caverns:
Montana's first State Park, the Caverns showcase Montana's unique geology. A tour of the Northwest's most impressive limestone caves takes about two hours, and involves roughly two miles of hiking, most of it inside the caverns themselves, which stay at 50 degrees no matter what the weather is like outside. However, there is a handicap accessible option. The park also has miles of biking and hiking trails. Tours start May 1, but the Park is open all year. 2. First Day of Fishing and Tap into Ennis:
. Ennis, one of the most legendary fishing towns in the west, celebrates the opening day of the fishing season with Tap into Ennis, one of the only combined Spirit and Brew fests in the state, featuring only Montanan breweries and distilleries. Fish all day, and then come back to town and indulge in Montana's best alcohol. May 16.
3. Grant-Kohrs Ranch:
Spring means baby animals at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch. This National Historic Site celebrates 150 years of agriculture in Montana with guided tours of the historic ranch house, ranger-led talks about the history of the ranch and agriculture, self-guided walking tours, and plenty of hands on kids' activities. Open year-round.4. Old Butte Historical Walking Tours:
There are a number of ways to tour Butte, but the Old Butte Historical Walking Tour gives you an up close and personal look at this historic mining city, taking you down alleys, through buildings, and even underground to the speakeasies and jail old Butte. Most tours last about two hours, and reservations are required. Remember that you'll be walking the entire time, and tours are not handicap accessible. Call for reservations. 5. Tizer Gardens:
Montana's only fully certified botanical garden and arboretum, Tizer Gardens is one of the hidden gems of SouthWest Montana. The gardens contain thousands of plants, shrubs and trees from around the world, and spring is a perfect opportunity to see some of the early-blooming wonders, or to buy plants for your garden at home. Nursery opens April 11, Gardens open in May. 6. Big Hole National Battlefield:
Open from sun-up to sunset, the Big Hole National Battlefield commemorates a battle between the U.S. Calvary and the Nez Perce under Chief Joseph, and is part of the Nez Perce Trail. Visitors to his historic site can watch a 30 minute video oriented them to the area and history, and then follow one of several self-guided tours. In addition, the area makes an excellent place to picnic and fish.7. Tour the State Capitol and visit the Montana Historical Society Museum:
Perfect for rainy spring days when the weather won't cooperate, the State Capitol and the MHS Museum are right across the street from each other. Hour-long tours of the Capitol focus on the art, architecture, and history of this beautiful building, frequently voted one of the most beautiful state capitols in the U.S. Montana's Museum, right next door, showcases the history of Montana, with displays highlighting every era of the state, and one of the largest collections of C.M. Russell paintings in the world. 8. Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge:
Located in Montana's extreme south, this nearly untouched wildlife refuge is one of the most ecologically diverse in the whole system. From the grasslands of the Centennial Valley, through the wetlands of the lakes, and into the Continental Divide of the Centennial Mountains, Red Rock Lakes NWR is home to a diverse array of wildlife, and in the spring, that means babies. Trumpeter Swan cygnets, elk and moose calves, deer and pronghorn fawns, hundreds of species of birds, and carpets of new wildflowers welcome visitors. Spring at the NWR doesn't get under way until mid-May and early June.