Thursday, August 30, 2012


Helena, MT  High 91  Low 58


It has been probably been 35 years since I took the Gates of the Mountains boat tour on Holter Lake. I was definitely looking forward to sharing the fun with my classmates and giving Jim a chance to take a boat ride with no fishing allowed. lol


The Gates of the Mountains has been a tourist attraction since the period 1886 to 1906, when the steamboat Rose of Helena traversed the Missouri River through this area. Steamboats no longer run on the river but there are three boats operating to take you on a beautiful ride on the lake.

Meriwether Lewis named this area on July 19th, 1805: This evening we entered the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. These clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of 1,200 feet. Solid rock for the distance of 53/4 miles. I entered this place and was obliged to continue my rout until sometime after dark before I found a place sufficiently large to encamp my small party; from the singular appearance of this place I called it the gates of the mountains.



This canyon was created by the Missouri River flowing through the limestone rock. Althought the Missour River once ran swiftly through the Gates of the Mountains, Holter Dam (built in 1918) drastically reduced the flow of water. 

 P1000401 P1000446

The monster of the Gates


 There are also pictographs on the cliffs




The following is taken from the US Forest Service website:

The Mann Gulch fire was first officially reported around noon on August 5, 1949, in Montana's Helena National Forest. Responding to the fire, the Forest Service dispatched fifteen smokejumpers from Missoula. The smokejumpers were part of a relatively new Forest Service program.

The fifteen smokejumpers landed at Mann Gulch about a half-mile away from the fire. There they met James O. Harrison, a fire guard from the nearby Meriwether Canyon Campground. Ironically, Harrison had quit the smokejumpers the year before because of the danger. As the men headed down the gulch towards the Missouri River, high winds caused the fire to suddenly expand, cutting off the men's route and forcing them back uphill. Later studies estimated that the fire covered 3,000 acres in 10 minutes during this blow-up stage.

To escape the advancing fire, now less than 100 yards away, crew foreman R. Wagner "Wag" Dodge ordered the men to drop their equipment and run back up the steep, rocky hillside. As the men retreated, Dodge stopped to set a small escape fire, creating a burned-over area that the fire would bypass. He directed the group towards this safe area, but due to the reigning confusion the rest of the men continued up the hill. As the massive fire overtook the group, two of the smokejumpers, Walter B. Rumsey and Robert W. Sallee, were able to find shelter by climbing inside in a small crevice in the canyon's rock wall. Of the 16 men on site, Dodge, Rumsey, and Sallee would end up as the only survivors.

The events of Mann Gulch greatly influenced the future of wildfire suppression and fire research. The Forest Service designed new training techniques and implemented additional safety measures for its firefighters. The agency also increased emphasis on fire research and the science of fire behavior, developing new firefighting techniques and equipment in the hopes of never repeating the tragic events of August 5, 1949.


  1. looks like it was a lovely day for a 'fishing free' boat ride!

  2. Well shoot! I missed that area... sure have enjoyed reading all about Helena ... absolutely love Montana.

    It's so hard to comment while traveling and with my iPhone... I read your blog and others but to comment? oh, baruther....

    what fun! all your classmates! Good looking crew and I'm serious... I thought you were my age... I don't know why I thought that. ...

  3. What a wonderful hidden treasure. I love the photo of the The Monster of the Gates. I am sure everyone enjoyed the cruise.

  4. And yet it did repeat, almost exactly in Colorado in 2001, the King Mountain Fire, taking a crew from Prineville, Oregon. There is a great book about the Mann Fire by Norman Maclean, "Young Men & Fire"
    That is a trip i would like to take!!!

  5. Poor Jim, in a boat with no fishing pole! How long did it take for him to stop crying? ;c)

  6. Looks like a beautiful area. We love the mountains and this certainly looks like the gate way to them.

    Kevin and Ruth

  7. I thought the same thing as the Dahls. I wondered how Jim managed being in a boat without a fishing pole in his hand. I bet you don't catch him in that predicament very often.

  8. Sure looks like a great tour and lots of fun.

  9. Is Jim okay now? Another stop to put on our list.

  10. I tried to comment last night, but blogger kicked my sorry butt out of here. Ha, I'm back though, so there! ;-) But now I forgot what I was going to say, but like everyone else, it was something about Jim sans a fishing pole...
    Really sad on the firefighters though. They really do deserve big metals & recognition for their hard work!

  11. I did this boat trip 2 years ago when we did the Lewis and Clark circuit. It was fantastic! I did not see the Monster of the Gates - cool!

  12. Wow! That looks like a trip I definitely would love to do. Thanks for sharing the story of the Mann Gulch Fire. That was so sad.


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