It was mid-July, 1805, when Captain Meriwether Lewis first viewed the Gates of the Mountains along Montana's Missouri River. His journal entry describes the scene this way: "we entered the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. These clifts rise from the water's edge on either side perpendicularly to the height of 1,200 feet. Solid rock for the distance of 5 ¾ miles." This view is still available for today's adventurer and it looks virtually the same as when Capt. Lewis and his Corps of Discovery first laid eyes upon it.
The "Gates" are located about 20 miles north of Helena. The canyon area is only accessible by water or traveling more than a dozen miles over trails through the Helena National Forest and Gates of the Mountains Wilderness Area. The Gates of the Mountains, Inc., boat tours provide numerous daily guided group trips through this Missouri River canyon between Memorial Day and late September. The tour guides give special attention to the area's wildlife, geology, Lewis & Clark and contemporary history. The tour boats can also be used to access or return from the wilderness trial system as well as the Canyon's few campgrounds and picnic sites.
The "Gates of the Mountains" is one of a number of sections along Lewis & Clark's Montana route that have changed very little since the expedition passed through here in 1805-06. The 149-mile long Upper Missouri River Wild & Scenic Corridor north of Great Falls, Lemhi Pass west of Dillon and the upper reaches of Lolo Pass west of Missoula are three other areas where today's adventurers can get the same look and feel of Montana's unspoiled landscape that was enjoyed by those famous western wilderness explorers.