Explore Lewis and Clark Caverns

Going underground at Montana's Lewis and Clark Caverns

"Keep your voices down," the tour guide said as we entered the Lewis and Clark Caverns.

"The bats are sensitive to noise," she said.

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And so began our two-hour climb through the Lewis and Clark caverns, a series of large underground caves near Whitehall, Montana, about 45 minutes from Butte. Set high in a mountainside above the Jefferson River, the caverns take you on a magical journey more than 500 feet underground. You walk through large rooms where stalactites formed by thousands of years of dripping water hang from the ceilings, their bulbous forms illuminated in purple and yellow lights. The caverns are large, some nearly 100 feet tall.

The caves were formed by upheaval in the limestone rock formations above the Jefferson River. Thousands of years of calcium-laden water dripping formed the bizarre shapes of stalactites, stalagmites and drip formations.

The caverns were never visited by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The caverns were given that name by the state of Montana in 1937 when they became Montana's first state park.

Guides with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lead tours of the caverns, offering plentiful information on history and geology.

And don't worry: we saw no bats screeching overhead.