What is the Capital of Montana?

Aerial View of the Montana State Capital of Helena on a Hazy Day
Aerial View of the Montana State Capital of Helena on a Hazy Day

Montana is a state in the U.S that’s known as the treasure state, thanks to its abundance of diverse wildlife, natural beauty, and mineral reserves. The astonishing Yellowstone Park is located in Montana, along with several other parks, forests, and rivers. A commonly asked question is, what is the capital of this fascinating state?

Helena is the capital of  Montana and the county seat of the Lewis and Clark county. Helena was made the permanent capital of the state of Montana in 1898 and has remained so for over a century.

In this article, we will discuss what Montana’s capital is. So keep reading; we have everything you need to know about Helena, the capital of Montana.

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Where is the Capital of Montana Located?

Where is the Capital of Montana Located
Where is the Capital of Montana Located

Helena is the capital of the state of Montana and the seat of Lewis and Clark county. The city is not far from the Mississippi River, lying at the eastern foot of the continental divide in Prickly Pear valley, an area famed for its rolling hills, enormous mountains, and fertile plains. Mount Helena and Ascension form a backdrop unlike any other in the world, both rising to over 5000 meters above the city.

Helena and the surrounding area are known for their natural beauty, the assorted wildlife, and its plethora of natural minerals. The city is nestled between the iconic Yellowstone and Glacier national parks.

A Brief History of Helena

Mount Helena is a city park with lots of hiking trails in Helena, Montana.
Mount Helena is a city park with lots of hiking trails in Helena, Montana.

The earliest signs of human life In Helen date back as far as 13,000 years to a time when the last Ice Age was coming to an end. Proto-Native Americans first settled around the region we now call Montana and Helenas National forest around this time. 

There are several archaeological sites near Helena in the Elkhorn Mountains. Here a significant amount of chipped stone spearheads and darts have been found, indicating the presence of early Native Americans. Some anthropologists have argued that while Native Americans were in the region, it was never a regular abode.

Helena’s modern history began in 1805 when the region was traversed by explorers William Clark and Meriweather Lewis. Helena as a settlement was initially founded by four men from Georgia, who became known in history as the Four Georgians. 

These men had searched all over Montana for gold with no prevail, yet after stumbling into the area now known as Helena, they took one last chance searching for gold, and on July 14, 1864, their lives changed forever as they finally struck gold. 

They would name the settlement Last Chance Gulch after the creek they first discovered gold in. Helena instantly became a boomtown, and within just a few short years, hundreds of businesses had opened up in the area, and over 3000 people called Helena home. 

Last Chance Gulch as a name was eventually deemed too coarse, so in October 1864, when seven men were chosen to organize a street plan for the city, they were also given the job of selecting a new name. Multiple options were teased, such as Tonopah, Pumpkinville, and Squashtown, but eventually a Scottish immigrant by the name John Summerville would suggest the name Helena, in honor of a town with the same name in Minnesota, and the name was accepted.

By 1875 the settlement of Helana was announced as the capital of Montana territory, and then by 1898, it was deemed the capital, almost a decade after Montana joined the United States. Thanks to the prolonged gold rush, Montana amassed over fifty millionaires in the year 1888, which contributed to the elaborate Victorian architecture of the city. 

By the close of the 19th century, the mining boom centered on gold, silver, and lead had moved on. The area then began to focus on future projects such as the building of the Canyon Ferry and the Holter Dams. 

When Did Helena Become the Capital of Montana?

Drone view of the Montana State Capitol, in Helena
Drone view of the Montana State Capitol, in Helena

From its foundations as a settlement, Helena has always been considered an essential part of early Montana. This led to Helena being declared the capital of the Montana territory in 1875, yet it would be another twenty years until it was officially recognized as the state’s capital in 1898.

Why is Helena the Capital of Montana?

After joining the United States in 1889, the capital of Montana was up for debate. Seven Montana cities were considered potential candidates for the state’s capital. These included: Helena, Boulder, Anaconda, Great Falls, Bozeman, Deer Lodge, and Butte. 

The fight for the capital was narrowed down to two options. The Copper King, Marcus Daly, supported Anaconda and had to go against William A Clark, who was in favor of Helena. Helena eventually came out on top in 1898 and has remained the capital and seat of Montana’s government ever since.

Best Places To Visit in Helena

Helena has some great places to visit. There’s something for everyone; whether you’re looking for a scenic view, beautiful Victorian architecture, or museums full of history, you’re sure to find something to go and see. Here are five of the best places to visit in Helena, Montana.

  1. Gates Of The Mountains: North of the city of Helena, along the Mississippi River, The Gate Of The Mountains is a site not to miss if you’re in Helena. You can take a boat journey on the marina here and take in all the beauty of the peaking mountains and rolling hills.
  2. Cathedral Of St. Helena: If you love cathedral architecture, you will instantly fall in love with the Cathedral of Saint Helena. Construction began on this iconic monument in 1908 and was modeled on the Votivkirche in Vienna, Austria, by A.O Von Herbukis.
  3. Montana State Capitol Building: A visit to Montana’s State Capitol Building is a must when you’re in Helena. You can take a tour throughout the grand building, and there’s even a scavenger hunt for kids.  
  4. Montana Historical Society Museum: Straight across the street from the capitol building lies the Montana Historical Society’s Museum. It has a beautiful collection of Charlie Russel art and great exhibits showing the area’s history.
  5. Mount Helena: If you want to get out into nature, look no further than Mount Helena. This mountain offers breathtaking views of the city and is a must-do for any hiking, biking, and fishing enthusiasts.

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!