- Helena National Forest
Infobox_protected_area | name = Helena National Forest
iucn_category = VI
locator_x = 73
locator_y = 28
nearest_city = Helena, MT
lat_degrees = 46
lat_minutes = 35
lat_seconds = 0
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 111
long_minutes = 50
long_seconds = 0
long_direction = W
area = 976,000 acres (4,000 km²)
established = 1907
governing_body = U.S. Forest Service
Helena National Forest is located in west-central
Montana, in the United States. Covering 976,000 acres (4,000 km²), the forest is broken into several separate sections. The eastern regions are dominated by the Big Belt Mountains, and are the location of the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness, which remains much as it did when the Lewis and Clark Expeditionpassed through the region. The western sections have both the continental divideand the Scapegoat Wildernessarea, which is part of the Bob Marshall Wildernesscomplex. The southern region includes the Elkhorn Mountains.The forest is composed of a mixture of grassand sagebrushcovered lowlands with "island" pockets of lodgepole pineand more mountainous areas where Douglas fir, spruceand larchcan be found. The rocky mountainsin the region do not exceed 10,000 feet (3,000 m). The grizzly bearhas a sizeable sustained population in the northwestern section of the forest, especially in the Scapegoat Wilderness. Black bears are numerous as are elk, moose, mule deer, and antelope. There are also small populations of bighorn sheepand mountain goats. Along streams and lakes, sightings of nesting bald eagles and other birds of prey are becoming more common due to protection of these speciesand their vitally important waterways.
700 miles (1100 km) of
hiking trails are located in the forest along with numerous trout streams and several lakes. There are over a dozen improved campgrounds. Snowmobileuse is common in the winter months as is cross-country skiing.
Interstate 15 runs north-south and
U.S. Route 12runs east-west through the area.The largest nearby city is Helena, Montana, which is also the state capital, and the headquarters location for the forest.
The forest was the site of the 1949
Mann Gulch fire, which claimed the lives of 13 firefighters and which was the subject of Norman Maclean's book Young Men and Fire.
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