The visitor is transported back in time to the day of discovery of this unique waterway located a short drive from Helena. The hours of operations run from Memorial Day to September 26. A visitor can take the Priogue, Sacajawea or the Hilger Rose river boats for an hour and a half tour through the most pristine water canyons with cliffs jetting upwards to about 1200 feet. The awestruck Meriwether Lewis named this area “Gates of the Mountain.”
If you are interested in the natural inhabitants of this majestic spot you may be lucky to view the Longhorn Sheep making their way above the rocky cliffs. I have seen them making their intrepid rock walk high above the canyon areas. The bird life is abundant. You may see a hawk, an osprey or a variety of blue birds as well as ducks, meadowlarks and the like. I have seen some tanangiers, loons and herrons in this well protected area. They are a sight to behold. You will need to hurry now though because these feathered friends will be heading south very soon. There is a reason the tours cease around the end of September.
The boat tour makes one stop along the way at Meriwether Campgound where passengers can disembark and enjoy the scenery. If you travel early enough you can stay, have a picnic and catch the next boat for a ride back to the marina dock. You can take a nature hike in this area and enjoy the crisp cool air and the scenery. All in all it is a day well spent for a family, singles, young and old. It gives you a sense of the robust explorers who travelled these parts and sent back letters of astonishment and wonder to their Eastern friends and family. Due to its inaccessibility for most, these parts are virtually unchanged from their historical past.
The Hilger Family is owed a great debt of gratitude. They were one of the more vigilant stewards of the land and water. Each and all of them loved the place and protected the area as if it was a special duty. The son of the orginal owner Brian Hilger was the embodiment of the Western Gentleman. “Where never was heard a discouraging word….” Quiet ways, but a profound impact in his sense of honor and trust as a gatekeeper. Unfortunately, his type is now on the endangered specie list here in Montana.
The day would not be complete if you have the chance to stop by the Gift Shop and pick up some postcards and send them to friends and family so they can share in your exploration of the West. A snack bar is on the premises so if you need a quick refreshment the snack shop can provide you a lift.
If you need any further information you can view the web site of the Gates of the Mountain or give them a call at 406 458-5241.