Montana’s famous caves lit by candle light
The light of candles really does dance inside the rooms of the Lewis and Clark Caverns. That’s what Missoulian reporter Kim Briggeman and photographer Kurt Wilson found when they tagged along on a candlelight tour of one of Montana’s most unique state parks. Here’s a preview of their story:
The static LED lamps that lit your way for the first half of the descent had replaced incandescent light bulbs in a $1 million makeover completed just a few years ago. Those lights went AWOL midway through the ever-descending route, at the aptly named Halfway Room.
Your candlelight danced off the cavern walls. Whereas light came from stationary sources above, here it was fainter and moved along with you.
You noticed a lot of things in the dark that you wouldn’t in the light. What went unseen or obscured played deliciously with the imagination. Darkness isn’t something to be conquered. It’s part of a bigger canvas that deep in the earth, high on a mountain, in the middle of a city or awash in open prairie is as essential as oxygen to the human species and most others.
You found yourself listening closely for sounds of the cave and sniffing for its scents. There weren’t many of either beyond the footsteps and subdued buzz your group made, and a rare whiff of dampness.
The popular candlelight tours are offered during the holiday season. According to the Missoulian: reservations are filled for the six days of holiday candlelight tours at Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. Tickets go on sale each year on the Monday following Thanksgiving. The main visitor center on Montana Highway 2 is open all year. Summer tours of the caverns are conducted from May 1 to Sept. 30.
State parks offer 54 unique places to play
There are 54 state parks (soon to be 55) spread out across the expanse of Montana. Few people can say they’ve been to every one.
From the almost 12,000 acre Makoshika in the east to Les Mason up in the northwestern corner of the state, how do you know where to go?
We were happy to help the Montana State Parks celebrate its 75th anniversary in our May/June issue with the help of the wonderful Kristen Inbody and Erin Madison – two Montanans who can say they’ve been to every one of the state parks.
To prove it, they wrote a guide book and travel companion that was recently published. It’s a great guide to have on you dashboard as you travel Montana.
If you want to learn more about the parks right now, check out our interactive map with our preview of the 75th anniversary feature.
Don’t forget to find us on Instagram (montanamagazine) to see images from the state parks we visit this year.
Time to celebrate with the May/June issue
We’ve got history. We’ve got horses. We’ve got places to play. We’ve got food. The May/June issue of Montana Magazine has a lot to celebrate and it’s ready to read now.
With all there is to read, a couple celebrations take center stage. First, writer Jesse Zentz takes us back in time to the Montana of 1864 – when the area was officially granted territory status 150 years ago. It was the Wild West no doubt. Also, writers Kristen Inbody and Erin Madison take us back in time and explain the conception of Montana State Parks. The system is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and we’re encouraging everyone to get out and explore the 54 parks spread across the state.
That’s just a sliver of the stories included in the May/June issue.
Top four things to see and do at Makoshika State Park
We shared a spread of photos by Jason Savage featuring Makoshika State Park in the March/April issue Portfolio that was pretty incredible. I hope you had a chance to check it out.
And now, I hope it inspires you to go take a look at the park in person.
Makoshika’s 11,538 acres – located just outside Glendive – are filled with giant formations of light colored capstone that reach toward the expansive eastern Montana skies like elegant pedestals.
I talked with Makoshika Park Ranger Tom Shoush for some insider tips about what visitors should do and see once they reach the park. Here’s a Top Four list based on Tom’s recommendations:
- Drive the 10-mile road through the park.
“If the road system is open, I always tell people to drive to the top. That’s where the views are,” Shoush said.
- Watch out for dinosaur bones.
The bones of 10-12 species of dinosaurs have been found inside Makoshika. Most of the finds, Shoush said, are large herbivores that lived near end of the age of dinosaurs. The most significant is an entire Thescelosaur, a “very rare” and “tremendous find” Shoush said.
- Stop at the visitor center.
It’s home to dinosaur bones and rare artifacts left behind by ancient peoples. “A human presence in the area dated back to 10,000 to 12,000 years ago,” Shoush said.
- Stop by during the “spring green up.”
Shoush recommends visiting from Makoshika in mid-May through mid-June.
“I tell people somewhere around June 1 you have the best chance of seeing the flowers in bloom and the migratory birds have returned,” he said.