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Helena, an Outdoor Paradise in Montana

© By Adam Southwood
Helena owes its existence to the adventurous 19th century gold miners who were seeking to make their fortune, and its museums and historic attractions will take one back to learn, even relive some of those exciting times.
     A trip into the Capitol building also takes one back in time. Restored to its original beauty, no detail has been overlooked. Everything from the doorknobs that feature an engraved state seal all the way to the restroom flooring is historically correct. The most spectacular piece of the restoration is the barrel vault ceiling. An arched skylight ceiling is composed of 90 stained-glass windows and it's held in place by sturdy red-oak frames, located in the building's rotunda which also boasts beautiful green and red columns. It's truly wonderful.
     Another architectural wonder is the St. Helena Cathedral, well worth a visit, as it is built from mining money to model the beautiful cathedral located in Cologne.
     The Great Northern Carousel has become one of Helena's favourite entertainment attractions, featuring buffalo, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, rabbits, fish, horses and even a dinosaur. Open 365 days a year, it houses a 40 foot in diameter, hand-carved carousel complete with bright flashing lights and lovely organ music with 37 hand-carved animals, one chariot and a spinning tub. Custom stained glass running boards depict Helena area landmarks and many Montana-native animals. Just to keep your eyes on the ground, a stained concrete floor pattern is interspersed with sandblasted animal and people tracks.
     Whether you enjoy camping, bicycling, boating, fishing, hunting, golfing, swimming or simply a sunny day at a park, Helena has it all. If you like water-sports, you will enjoy the reservoirs of the mighty Missouri. Both Holter and Hauser Lakes are camping destinations where you can and fish, swim, wind- surf, water-ski and boat. Canyon Ferry Lake, the large dam reservoir, is 20 minutes east of Helena. Spring Meadow Lake is open year-round and just a few miles west of downtown.
     There is great fishing here on many nearby lakes and streams if you are looking for rainbow, brook, brown, bull, Yellowstone cutthroat and westslope cutthroat trout.
     Golfers can choose from two scenic public courses: Bill Roberts Municipal Golf Course and Fox Ridge or the beautiful Green Meadow Country Club.
     Hikers will enjoy nearby Blackfoot Meadows and Continental Divide Trail - along with moose, elk, black bears, mountain goats and bighorn sheep. A few miles north of town, the 1.5-million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, with 1,800 miles of hiking trails, stretches all the way to Glacier National Park.
     Another activity is to travel back in time by horse-drawn wagons to Montana's largest tipi with Last Chance Ranch Wagonride Dinners. There's an all-you-can-eat prime rib dinner complete with huckleberry cheesecake and cowboy coffee. Singing, cowboy poetry and a musical Lewis and Clark tribute top off a superb evening. The Ranch is located nine miles out of Helena, with transportation provided.
     In winter, ice sailing is a popular sport. The area lakes are perfect for ice fishing for perch. The Great Divide ski area is within minutes of Helena and welcomes skiers and snowboarders. Snowmobile riders have plenty of great tracks. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors will thrive here.

Glacier National Park

Cathedral of Saint Helena

Mining Sapphires Near Helena

Carroll College  Cathedral Of St. Helena  Historical Society  Miners Statue  Mount Helena  State Capitol Building

Adam Southwood writes for Canadian, U.S. and European magazines and newspapers. He is a graduate of both McMaster University in Hamilton and UWO in London with an interest in culture and history. He has produced several educational programs for TV.

Photo Credits
Courtesy of Helena Montana CVB

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Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helena_Montana
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Helena_%28Montana%29
About.com: http://gonw.about.com/od/attractionsmt/tp/helena_attractions.htm
Helena Montana CVB: http://www.gohelena.com/

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