Alice Creek/Lewis & Clark Pass
In the summer of 1806 a small party made its way along the Blackfoot Riverand up the slope occupied by what is known today as AliceCreek. The embracing valley gradually narrowed until it steepened and the group ascended the mountain that presented itself over an easy pathway long used by generations of people before them. The leader of this group was Meriwether Lewis of the famous Lewis & Clark Expedition, returning home over a short-cut described to him by the Native American peoples who knew the landscape with a certainty lost to contemporary travelers.
Nearly two centuries later, in anticipation of the Bicentennial celebration of the Corps of Discovery, the Helena National Forest contracted to examine the areas significant to the expedition under their jurisdiction. The resulting study provided an excellent review of archaeological and historical sites in Lewis and Clark County related to Forest Service property. It was prepared by Sara Scott, and is a superbly written account of those subjects covered. The study included mapping the trail’s location and recording important heritage sites that lie next to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Efforts to protect the trail include periodic heritage site monitoring to ensure the trail and the sites along it remain in good condition. The Helena National Forest has produced a detailed historic preservation plan for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.
One section of the report dealt with Meriwether Lewis’ trek over what had become known as Lewis and Clark Pass at the head of the Alice Creek drainage. Recommendations that the trail be better interpreted were pursued and just prior to the Bicentennial an improved trailhead was installed at the base of the Pass.
Anyone taking the trail had to be impressed with its pristine qualities and historical ambiance. Alice Creek and Lewis and Clark Pass look much the same as when Meriwether Lewis saw them. The Forest Services upgrade protects this scene. To safeguard heritage resources, old trailhead and parking facilities were relocated and new restroom and trash collection facilities installed. Cattle were excluded from sensitive portions of the trail by jackleg fences.
New signing now encourages adherence to Forest Service management policies and site protection requirements. In a number of cases on-site interpreters have been provided to guide hikes, monitor site conditions, and answer questions essential to the protection of heritage resources during the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial.
Now that the Bicentennial events are past, the residents of Lewis and Clark County remain gifted with a superbly unique and very historical site to enjoy. The trailhead is popular with nature groups who relish the historical and cultural aspects of the trail. Walking its length, one is still rewarded by the distant view at the summit - the mountains rolling unendingly westward and the vast open plains to the east. It is to the credit of the Helena National Forest that our citizens may share this experience. For that reason we offer our gratitude today in the form of this award.
Accepting this award were Carl Davis, Forest Archaeologist & Sara Scott, the author of the report.