Divide Landscape

Photo of Divide geographic area

This geographic area is the scenic backdrop and primary recreational resource for Montana’s capital city, Helena. It also includes the smaller communities of Austin, Rimini, and Unionville. Portions of the geographic area are in the political geographies of Lewis and Clark, Powell, and Jefferson counties. The spine of the divide is higher, cooler, wetter, and more exposed, imbuing it with a unique microclimate. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail follows the crest of the divide.

While the geographic area has a rich history of prehistoric occupation, its signature on the landscape is not obvious. A legacy of mining has left behind a suite of structures, such as cabins and kilns, and over 139 named mines. Many former mining communities were settled and have since vacated, leaving behind interesting clues of their heyday. Some riparian benches have been converted to pasture on private property, adding a rural setting in areas. A major west/ east railroad passes over the divide at Mullan Pass. Historically, fire was the primary disturbance throughout the geographic area and would determine composition and patterns of vegetation. Much of the area is covered with conifer forest. Parks are distributed throughout, such as Bullion Parks, Blackfoot Meadows, and, Thompson Flats. Patches of past harvest are evident on the landscape.

The Divide landscape hosts a wide variety of recreation opportunities including but not limited to, hiking and mountain biking trails, cross country skiing trails, developed campgrounds and day use sites, dispersed camping areas, trailheads, and opportunities for motorized users. Park Lake is one of the most popular campgrounds due to its proximity to Helena. The Divide landscape also contains the Tenmile watershed, which is a source of municipal water for the city of Helena.