Lewis and Clark Caverns Historic District

Deer hunters first brought the spectacular system of subterranean caverns within Cave Mountain to public attention in 1898. Noticing steam flowing from a natural vent, they discovered passageways and voids filled with striking geological formations. By 1901, local quarry owner Dan Morrison had enlarged the entrance, built 2,000 wooden steps into the caverns, and begun offering guided tours of Morrison Cave. Early tours, guided with ropes and torches, were primitive. Even after federal designation as a national monument in 1908, the caves remained difficult to access. Other cave systems in the United States developed under the National Park Service in the 1920s and 1930s, and Montana state officials petitioned the federal government for aid in 1934. In 1935, the Civilian Conservation Corps—a New Deal federal jobs program—established Company 574 and Camp Cavern near Whitehall. Over the next six years, more than 200 crew members, along with a geologist, architect, and engineers, transformed access to the caves. Inside, crews repaired stairways, improved passages, opened new caverns, installed lighting, blasted a 538‐foot exit tunnel, and mapped the cavern. Outside, they built a steep and winding 3.2-mile access road, a granite bridge, maintenance shop, new trails, an overlook deck, and three Rustic style buildings. While still under construction in 1937, the caverns were officially transferred to state ownership, becoming Montana’s first state park well before Montana had a state parks system. The 1940 Montana Legislature authorized creation of the state parks system, and on May 4, 1941 three thousand people attended the caverns’ grand opening.

Comfort Station

President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal programs to bring the United States out of the Great Depression put millions of men to work and transformed local, state, and national public lands. While New Deal programs like the Civilian Conservation…

Headquarters Building

The Lewis and Clark Caverns Headquarters building, designed by National Park Service architect O. John Ballas and built by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crews in 1938, is a model example of the Rustic or “Parkitecture” style. Drawing on Arts and…