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Helena

Helena Montana is the capital city of the state of Montana, located in North central United States.
The town of Helena was begun in 1864, after the discovery of gold along the Last Chance Creek by a group known as the Four Georgians.

The main street of town is called Last Chance Gulch and follows the old winding path of the original creek though what is now a historic district in downtown Helena.

By 1888, about 50 millionaires lived in Helena, more millionaires per capita than any city in the world. About $3.6 billion (in today’s dollars) of gold was taken from Last Chance Gulch, over a 20-year period.

The official symbol of Helena is a drawing of “The Guardian of the Gulch”, a wooden fire watch tower built in 1886, that still stands on “Tower Hill” overlooking the historic downtown district.

The Guardian of the Gulch Fire Tower, Helena

In 1889, railroad magnate Charles Arthur Broadwater opened his fabled Hotel Broadwater and Natatorium west of Helena.

Damaged in the earthquake of 1935, it was closed in 1941. It was demolished in 1976. Today, the Broadwater Fitness Center stands just west of the Hotel & Natatorium’s original location, complete with an outdoor pool heated by natural spring water running underneath it.

The Civic Center and the Saint Helena Cathedral are two of many unique historic buildings in Helena.

A view of downtown Helena from the hillside

When in Helena, most people visit the local walking mall (built in the early 1980s after Urban Renewal in the early 1970s had virtually gutted the downtown district), a three block long strip of stores following the original Last Chance Gulch.

There is a stream in a concrete bed running the length of the walking mall, simulating Last Chance Creek.

The Archie Bray Foundation, an internationally-renowned ceramics center founded in 1952, is located just west of Helena.

Helena also has a local ski area, Great Divide Ski Area, northwest of town near the ghost town of Marysville, Montana.

The craggy rugged hills outside Helena, called Hellgate Gulch

Notes: Hellgate Gulch is just one of many such imaginatively named areas found throughout Montana. Most dealt with some type of mining. “The 1912 study by James Hill and Waldemar Lindgren identified three districts in the York-Confederate Gulch area. The most productive of these were in Confederate Gulch, White Gulch, Avalanche Gulch, Hellgate Gulch, Magpie Gulch, Cave Gulch, Clarks Gulch, Oregon Gulch and York Gulch.

Montana is famed for its outdoor activities, including hunting, fishing and hiking, as well as for its climate, which is harsh in the wintertime, featuring snow and ice storms that sweep the area.

The restoration of its world-renowned elk population has been one of Montana’s greatest wildlife management success stories. Over the past century wildlife managers, hunters, ranchers, and others have helped rebuild a population from only a few thousand animals to one now esti­mated at over 150,000.

An elk calf on the prairies outside Helena

Montana is also famed for its bears, Black bears and grizzly (grizzly are studied here by the Fish and Wildlife services) and the photographic opportunities in Montana for wildlife are seemingly endless.


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