Forty-three acres on the shore of Hauser Lake, near Helena. A concrete boat launch with dock gives fishermen access to Hauser's kokanee salmon and trout. Max. trailer length is 35 feet. Black Sandy is a popular put-in for weekend boaters, fishermen and water skiers
Potable water, toilets, picnic facilities and a dump station accommodate RVers (no hookups) and tent campers on 33 sites.
“this evening we entered much the most remarkable clifts that we have yet seen. these clifts rise from the waters edge on either side perpendicularly to the hight of 1200 feet. ... the river appears to have forced its way through this immense body of solid rock for the distance of 5-3/4 Miles ... I called it the gates of the rocky mountains.” —Captain Meriwether Lewis, July 19, 1805
The Gates of the Mountains Wilderness was created concurrent with the Wilderness Act of 1964. The 28,562-acre wilderness includes just 53 miles of trails, most branching off the Beaver Creek drainage near the former town of Nelson, Montana—the self-declared "cribbage capital of the world." The high terrain is bordered on the west by the Missouri River, which geologists say predates the uplifted limestone of the cliffs that hem it in.
Gates of the Mountains Wilderness encompasses Mann Gulch, site of a 1949 fire that claimed 13 firefighter lives and served as the basis for writer Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire.
In 2007, another fire, named Meriwether, burned 20,000 acres of the wilderness, changing the landscape's character yet again.
Helena National Forest's 976,000 acres comprise three distinct sections straddling the Continental Divide around the Montana capitol of Helena. The forest's northwestern portion includes parts of the Scapegoat Wilderness and reaches south almost to Deer Lodge. The eastern part of the forest encompasses the Big Belt Mountains and includes the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness (site of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire, recreated in Norman Maclean's Young Men and Fire). The southern portion, west of Townsend, includes the Elkhorn Mountains.
Ranger district offices in Helena (headquarters), Lincoln, and Townsend oversee the forest, which includes low-elevation sagebrush rangeland, island pockets of lodgepole pine, and sub-10,000-foot mountain peaks. Indian cliff paintings and historic mining ruins alike dot the landscape. Elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mule and whitetail deer and Rocky Mountain goat are common, as are black bears. Grizzlies are more likely in the remote Scapegoat Wilderness portion of the forest.
The forest features more than a dozen developed campgrounds and over 1,000 miles of trail accessing the forest's numerous trout streams and lakes. Six primitive Forest Service cabins and guard stations are available for public rental through recreation.gov. The winter months see an influx of snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers congregate at MacDonald Pass' 7 miles of groomed trails. Mountain biking is popular on 10 trails dispersed among the forest's three ranger districts. Ten scenic driving routes, concentrated mostly on the Lincoln District, provide auto access into the forest.