Spotlight Montana: Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
July 14, 2017 • Leave a Comment
I recently made a trip to the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park near Three Forks, Montana. I can't believe I've lived here so long and never visited this wonderful state park. And one of the great things, if you're a Montana resident and pay the small fee to the state parks each year with your vehicle registration, you get in free! Aside from that, I actually had low expectations. As much as I'm fascinated by caves, I've been in other ones and they tend to be overhyped and underwhelming. So needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The state park is situated in a rugged area of limestone hills that form some dramatic cliffs above the Jefferson River. The river was named after Thomas Jefferson by Lewis and Clark who floated the river on their famous expedition in 1805. They didn't locate the caverns however, which weren't discovered by non native Americans until 1882. I did the standard 2 hour guided tour which was a bargain at only $12 per person. The tour guide was not only knowledgeable but also personable. The tour does require some sliding, ducking, and scrambling and they encourage you to bring as little as possible. No tripods are allowed though I didn't ask about monopods. But with the high ISO capabilities of most DSLR's now, that's not a huge problem. I shot at ISO 1600 and spot-metered the part of the cave that was lit. I was able to get useable shots this way. Most of prominent features of the cave have lights on them and the final room on the tour, called the Paradise Room, has a pinkish light on the features. The guide explained that the pink hue is what the stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and other features would look like under sunlight. I think they do it just because it might be considered prettier. I prefer the white light myself but the Paradise Room was spectacular regardless of lighting. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park is a wonderful family experience and also provides photographer's with something different to aim a lens at from the standard above ground subjects. It's well worth it!
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