Treasure State Parks Await

by Angie Ripple  |  Monday May. 1st, 2017

Montana is home to 55 State Parks waiting for each of us to explore. You won’t find much in the way of man-made attractions in Montana; what you will find are breathtaking views, rich landscapes, amazing camping, scenic byways and opportunities for hiking, biking, boating, horseback riding, backpacking, OHV riding, archery, bird watching, and fishing. Not only do our state parks provide amazing scenery and recreation, many of them are deemed Heritage Sites. These sites shine a light on our region’s past, historic events, cultural figures, and explorers. Montana spans 147,164 mi²; exploring our State Parks is a great way to plan an adventure, get out on the water, stop off to stretch your legs, brush up on Montana history, or camp for a weekend.  
                                                                                photo Lewis & Clark Caverns - Casey Norris

Quick Facts:
• Montana State Parks date back to 1939, but the first heritage resources program specialist wasn’t hired until 2007. Montana State Parks’ Heritage Resources Program is responsible for parks’ compliance with the Montana Antiquities Act and for ensuring thousands of artifacts found in State Parks are appropriately curated and stored. • Eight Montana State Parks have Visitor Centers that feature interpretive displays, educational programs, artifacts, gift shops and more. These eight parks include Lone Pine State Park, Kalispell MT; Pictograph Cave State Park, Billings, MT; Makoshika State Park, Glendive, MT; First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park, Ulm, MT; Bannack State Park, Dillon, MT; Missouri Headwaters State Park, Three Forks, MT; Lake Elmo State Park, Billings, MT; and Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, Whitehall, MT.

On the Water:
• Nearly half of Montana State Parks are water-based recreation sites. Motorized boating and water-skiing are permitted on a handful of sites, while fishing, hiking, picnicking and camping are available at nearly every park. • Montana residents arriving at Montana State Parks in a vehicle with valid MT license plates are allowed to enter for free. Camping, tours, special events and other fees apply seperately. • Non-resident visitors must pay a day-use fee of $5 per car. Non-residents may want to opt for the Montana State Parks Annual Pass for unlimited day-use access; this pass is $25 for the first vehicle and $20 for additional vehicles. Purchase the annual pass at any state park, regional Fish Wildlife and Parks [FWP] office or online at fwp.mt.gov/parks. • All motorboats, personal watercraft, motorized pontoons and sailboats 12-feet in length and longer must be permanently registered in the state of Montana. Boat owners must obtain a title and registration and pay all fees to the County Treasurer in the county where the owner resides. • Don’t forget your fishing license: residents must purchase their conservation license and fishing licenses at an FWP office, online, or a FWP License Provider. FWP License Providers in Bozeman include Bob Ward and Sons (3011 Max Ave), Casey’s Corner #1 (81855 Gallatin Rd), Fins and Feathers (81801 Gallatin Rd), Fish Wildlife and Parks - Region 3 (1400 South 19th Ave), Montana Troutfitters (1716 W Main St), Sportsman’s Warehouse (2214 N Tschache Ln), The Bozeman Angler (23 E Main St), The Powder Horn (35 E Main St), The River’s Edge West (59 North Star Lane), The Rivers Edge (2012 N 7th St), and Wal-Mart Store (1500 N 7th Ave).

On the History Trail:
• Your own two feet can take you amazing places within Montana’s State Parks, each one has a trail to explore. • Rock hounding, gold and gem panning, bird or prairie dog watching, cave exploring, archaeology and heritage can all be found on the state park trails of Montana. • Interpretive Displays are included in 11 of MT’s State Parks. Displays share how the landscape was shaped, native history, Lewis & Clark exploration information, and habitat. The displays also help visitors understand the events that took place in the areas over the decades.

Volunteer:
• Montana State Parks offer volunteer opportunities for individuals, families with children, as well as service groups and clubs. Consider volunteering for a four-week period or regularly scheduled hours May through September as a Park Naturalist, Park Host, Visitor Center Attendant or Special Projects Assistant. • Individuals are always welcome to take part in Special Volunteer Days planned in state parks on Earth Day, National Trails Day, Get Outdoors Day, Global Youth Service Day, National River Cleanup Week, and National Public Lands Day. • National Public Lands Day is the last Saturday in September, September 30, 2017. National Public Lands Day keeps the promise of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the “tree army” that worked from 1933-42 to preserve and protect America’s natural heritage.

Montana State Parks, similarly to Bozeman, have been seeing rapid growth in visition and pressure on infrastructure and resources in recent years. From 2007 to 2016, annual visitation increased from 1.91 million visits to 2.65 million visits—an increase of 39% over the ten-year period [Montana State Parks Heritage Resources Strategic Plan, Feb 16, 2017]. Heritage properties specifically received over 830,000 visits in 2016, up 17% from 2015. The current Heritage Resources Strategic Plan addresses hiring individuals trained to manage heritage resources and artifact protection, including those with paleontological expertise. A current budget deficit will require alternative funding play a major role before more staff can be hired and heritage and preservation projects move forward. Keep in mind the strain on the Treasure State’s natural and financial resources when you get out to visit our parks this summer. Your help in taking care of this place we call home will help ensure it stays beautiful for the generations to come.  

About the Author(s)