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Gates of the Mountains Boat Tours
Hwy 15, north of Great Falls, MT • (406) 458-5241

This spectacular boat cruise along a stretch of the Missouri has been in operation for over 100 years. It retraces the areas traveled by Lewis and Clark in 1805 beginning at the Upper Holter Lake and passing through the incredible limestone cliffs where many forms of wildlife are commonly spotted. You’ll see many birds, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and possibly even a black bear or mountain lion.

Meriwether Lewis named this stretch of the Missouri River. The sheer limestone cliffs appear to open or close as you approach or depart the
canyon. Lewis wrote “The rocks approached the river on both sides, forming a most sublime and extraordinary spectacle. Nothing can be imagined more tremendous than the frowning darkness of these rocks, which project over the river and menace us with destruction. This extraordinary range of rocks we called the Gates of the Rocky Mountains.”

In 1886, Nicholas Hilger began giving boat tours of the area. Today there are three open-air river boats that provide tours of the canyon. The 105 minute cruise begins at the marina three miles off of Exit 209 on I-15 just north of Helena. The cruise through here appears just as it did when first seen by Lewis and Clark. The cliffs are so shear here that there are very few places to beach a boat. One of the few places is the Meriwether Picnic Area, named after the explorers it is believed camped here. The tour boat does stop here for a break. If you wish, you can take a hike up to Mann Gulch where 13 smokejumpers died in a raging forest fire in 1949. The tour boat operator will pull in close to the walls to observe Indian pictographs. There is a good chance that you will also see mountain goats along the rugged walls.

Reprinted from The Ultimate Montana Atlas & Travel Encyclopedia

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