Located in north and central MontanaT along the upper Missouri River system, the Lewis and Clark National Forest is named after Lewis and Clark because of their expedition through the waterways and lands. Elevation in the national forest ranges from 4,500 feet to the Rocky Mountain Peak's 9,362 feet. Landscapes from mountain peaks to rugged ridges to broad prairies can be seen throughout the land. Twenty miles of nationally-acclaimed blue-ribbon trout stream on the Smith River provide excellent fishing opportunities, along with fourteen boat camps. More than sixty other streams support westslope cutthroat trout, one the upper Missouri River basin's native fish.
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Forests of lodgepole pine and douglas fir surround beautiful mountain meadows and grassy parks. The Lewis and Clark National Forest also consists of the Bob Marshall-Great Bear-Scapegoat Wilderness Complex. A handful of small man-made and natural lakes, as well as 1,600 miles of perennial streams, provide visitors with an opportunity to fish for mountain whitefish and trout. A broad array of other wildlife also call this national forest home, including gray wolf, peregrine falcon, grizzly bears, lynx, black bears, bald eagles, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, blue grouse, deer, and elk. There are also several popular sites for viewing migrating waterfowl.
Within the Lewis and Clark National Forest is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. The building, which spans 25,000 square feet, features a permanent exhibit hall, a retail store, a classroom for curriculum-based hands-on activities, and a theater that seats 158 people. The center follows the expedition of Lewis and Clark, and can be found near the Missouri River's great falls. The Interpretive Center brings the story of the adventure during the nineteenth century to life, from the vision of President Thomas Jefferson of the expansion of America to the native peoples of the west and the experiences of the expeditionary corps. Visitors can also learn about the area's native animals and plants, as well as try their luck with wilderness skills.
The lands of the forest were established and defined in 1897 by the federal government, after the Treaty of 1896 with the Blackfeet, which established their adjacent reservation. The Lewis and Clark National Forest is one of the nation's oldest forest preserves, named after the men whose expedition that explored the Louisiana Purchase passed through the region from 1804 to 1806. Before this time, various Native American peoples inhabited the area for at least eight to ten thousand years. When the expedition passes through the region, different parts of the expansive forest territory were used by people of the Crow, Flathead, Cheyenne, Sioux, and Blackfeet nations for seasonal winter camps and hunting. The forested areas offered shelter from the winter.
Visitors have the chance to stand exactly where Lewis and Clark once stood, think about what they saw and explore what has changed since their time. Formally known as the Lewis and Clark National Forest, this forest was combined with the Helena National Forest in 2015. The national forest is now known as the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest.
4201 Giant Springs Road, Great Falls, Montana, Phone: 406-791-7700