Few cities are as rich in history and fun trivia as Montana’s state capital, Helena, and many people don’t even realize it’s the capital! Montana is an interesting state, ranking fourth in physical size but 44th in total population with just over one million residents, but don’t let the vast open country fool you into thinking there is nothing to do. Check out five fun facts about Helena and consider taking your next nursing assignment in Big Sky Country.
Helena’s Unique Founding
The city of Helena is the heart of Lewis and Clark County, resting between Yellowstone National Park to the South and Flathead National Forest to the North. Helena was actually founded by accident in 1864 when four gold miners from Georgia were down on their luck and decided to try one more run to strike it rich. They named their small mining town “Last Chance Gulch” and eventually word spread, drawing more hopeful gold miners to the area. Those four miners found gold and news spread fast, turning Last Chance Gulch into a boom town in just a few years.
Eventually, Last Chance Gulch became the capital of the Montana territory in 1875, and a few of the early suggestions for naming the town officially included Pumpkinville and Squashtown. However, many of the miners who moved to the area hailed from Minnesota and decided to name the town after Saint Helena, eventually dropping the “Saint” portion of the name.
Many, Many Millionaires
It may or may not surprise you to learn that Montana has one of the highest concentrations of millionaires living in the state considering Montana was essentially founded by the gold rush. By the end of the 19th century, Helena, MT had more millionaires than any other city in the world. It continues to be a very prosperous state today, with many local millionaires making their fortunes through respectful use of the state’s bountiful natural resources and space for cattle ranching.
The One Hot Spring in Helena
Montana is one of the few states in the country with natural hot springs. More than 60 natural hot springs and 15 commercial hot springs you can visit to enjoy the medical and therapeutic benefits of soaking in naturally heated water. Despite all the natural hot springs throughout the state, Helena only has one, but it can get up to 102 degrees.
Helena Residents Turn Their Old Christmas Trees into… Homes for Fish
One of the most unusual and fascinating facts about Helena is the Pines for Perch program. Although the program has been temporarily suspended due to invasive mussels in the Tiber Reservoir, the Pines for Perch program collected used Christmas trees to help struggling local fish populations. Once collected, they lash the trees together and then drop them into Canyon Ferry Lake, creating an ideal spawning ground for small fish.
Home of the Former Largest Indoor Swimming Pool – in the 1800s
Dubbed “the Natatorium,” a natural hot spring fed the Hotel Bradwater’s indoor swimming pool with more than one million gallons of water per day. In 1889, the Natatorium was the largest indoor swimming pool on Earth. Over the next several years, hotel guests would enjoy swimming in the pool and could take electric trolleys to and from downtown Helena. Unfortunately, earthquakes heavily damaged the hotel in 1935, and it was ultimately demolished in 1974.
Travel nursing is a fantastic job for anyone who wants to have the experience of living in a place without actually settling down permanently. Many traveling nurses also enjoy the opportunity to “shop around” for a place to eventually settle or retire. As a traveling nurse, you probably encounter lots of strange and wonderful facts about the places you visit for your work assignments. Montana is an often-misunderstood state with many people assuming it’s nothing but empty backcountry, grasslands, and dense forests. Nothing could be further from the truth, so be sure to take time and explore if your next assignment takes you to the Helena area.