|The Helena tourist train|
Our favorite bit of information on the tour was concerning the election to pick the capital city of Montana. Helena had been the capital of the Montana Territory and wanted to keep that distinction after statehood arrived, but so did every other little gimcrack town in the territory. There were initially 7 towns in the running and an initial ballot narrowed it down to Helena v.s. Anaconda. In the run off election there was bickering, bribery and double dealing but in the end Helena squeaked by with a margin of 50 some odd votes. Now there is an old house in the city that was recently renovated and in the basement they discovered a walled up room. In the room they found the ballots for that election. When historians counted those ballots, Anaconda rather than Helena actually won the election. At least that is what the tour guide told us. An hour of internet research failed to find any corroboration for this version of events, so take it for what it is worth.
Every state seems to have a historical museum in its capital city and Montana is no exception so we thought we’d take a look. The front door was just in front of us as we got off the train, but it was
|Western art and guns. Fishing gear was popular as well.|
|Bison skull sculpture outside the state museum|
|Montana State Capitol building|
Helena, like much of Montana, is growing which one can see by all the new buildings in the surrounding county of over 70,000 people. But much of the downtown, like many US cities, is dying. The local mall is closing and there are lots of empty storefronts. The towns main business is politics with 6 of 10 jobs in town being related to state, county or city government. Education, tourism and a little industry follow at a distance.
|A peaceful cruise up the Missouri River at Holter Lake|
|Deer on the river bank|
Gates of the Mountain are outcroppings of canyon wall that create an illusion, seemingly closed when 1st approached and then, as one follows the curve of the river upstream, appear to open like a sliding gate. It must have looked to the Corps like the river was just going to stop and then the walls slowly opened to let them through.
|The gates closing|
|Bald eagle seen along the bank...|
|... and the juvenile|
|The eagle's nest|