Long utilized by varying cultures of indigenous peoples, evidence from the McHaffie and Indian Creek sites on opposite sides of the Elkhorn Mountains southeast of the Helena Valley show that people of the Folsom culture lived in the area more than 10,000 years ago.
Gold strikes in Idaho Territory in the early 1860s attracted many migrants who initiated major gold rushes at Grasshopper Creek (Bannack) and Alder Gulch (Virginia City) in 1862 and 1863 respectively. So many people came that the federal government created a new territory called Montana in May 1864. These miners prospected far and wide for new placer gold discoveries. On July 14, 1864, the discovery of gold by a prospecting party referred to as the “Four Georgians“, in a gulch off the Prickly Pear Creek led to the founding of a mining camp along a small creek in the area they called Last Chance Gulch.
This large concentration of wealth was the basis of developing fine residences and ambitious architecture in the city; its Victorian neighborhoods reflect the gold years.
Helena has a local ski area, Great Divide Ski Area, northwest of town near the ghost town of Marysville. Helena is also known for its mountain biking. It was officially designated as an International Mountain Bicycling Association bronze level Ride Center on October 23, 2013.
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