NorthWestern Energy will be installing poles between East Helena High School and Lewis & Clark County Search & Rescue on the east side of Valley Drive. This will require a one-lane closure Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, August 2nd – 4th.

The pole being replaced on Thursday, August 5th will require a 4-hour closure of both lanes. Traffic will be routed through La Casa Grande Subdivision from Bandera to Cobre.


On Valley Drive the first 7 or 8 new homes in Highland Meadows subdivision are well under construction. At least 315 more are coming. Each of these families are likely to have at least one vehicle, perhaps two. Add this new traffic to the current volume of vehicles on Valley Drive, especially during the school year when Prickly Pear Elementary School and the new East Helena High School  are open, and you have an impossible situation for a town the size of East Helena. Additionally there is always an interminable line of over-sized dump trucks, sand & gravel trucks, and cement trucks going to various construction sites.

Valley Drive/Montana Ave. has been inadequate for the current volume of traffic for years before the recent construction. Now it is ridiculous. Prickly Pear Junction wonders why the officials at East Helena City Hall do not have updated information about upgrades for Valley Drive/Montana Ave. on the official City of East Helena website?
The citizens we talk with want to know.


For the past 6 years we have presented some fairly interesting stories and photo essays here. Many have been pulled from the main pages to make room for new content. We thought we would compile some of the those stories into this Archive page. Here is a list of some of the better stories:

• Construction of Prickly Pear Elementary School
• Four Unknown Soldiers in the old EH Cemetery
• VIGILANTES ~ 6 Stories from EH High School Students

• When Prickly Pear Junction Became East Helena
• Main Street Park Servicemembers Monument

The Canyon Ferry

(Click on these photos to view full screen!)

Driving anywhere in the Helena/East Helena area you see the name Canyon Ferry everywhere. These are reminders that there actually was a “Canyon Ferry” that crossed the Missouri River in the old settlement of Canyon Ferry which was established early in 1865. Rowing across the river was hard work so the ferry was strung across the river in the spot where the first Canyon Ferry dam was built. At Canyon Ferry, the charge for being swept across the river on an open barge was 25 cents for a horse and rider, 50 cents for a team. The heavy barge, anchored by cables, was carried across the Missouri by the river current. The completion of the first dam at Canyon Ferry in 1898 signaled the death of the ferry, for it left the waters below the dam too choppy for safe crossing. Those wishing to cross once again made the passage in rowboats until the first county bridge was built in 1899.

It’s easy to forget that  Canyon Ferry Lake campgrounds are only about 15 miles from East Helena. It can get quite crowded in summertime but in March or September you may find they are all yours! Many times I have been all alone with my pups at both of these campgrounds over the years.
(Click on these photos to view full-sized)

This is Court Sheriff Campground. One morning I looked out the camper window and saw this gang! When I opened the door, they all came charging. I threw them some pieces of bread and they ended up hanging around all morning.

Apparently wild turkeys are frequent visitors to Court Sheriff, although in all the years I have been visiting there I had never seen any. These guys were quite friendly. I expect they have visited campers quite often. PS: they LOVE whole wheat bread!

This is Jo Bonner Campground: I have been here many times and occasionally see a single American White Pelican but on this day there were two flocks. They are beautiful birds to watch, especially when they fly off or land on the water. 


Victoria Curtiss
EHHS Art Teacher

Yearbook advisor 
Robotics Coach

The Vigilante Spirit is Spreading!

There is a new look to the Schiller building! These girls worked hard painting and sharing their school pride. Check out the Mural East Main and Montana Ave. Pictured: Jamie Fessenden, Carly Copenhaver, Kota Petersen, Jillian Stewart, Amber Stevenson, Aryanna Schiller and not pictured Alba Schwarmann.

East Helena City Mural

EVMS and EHHS art students were asked to help paint a mural for the city park. The mural depicts the Prickly Pear Creek in seven panels. Be sure to take a picnic and enjoy the view in East Helena City Park.

Call: 406.227.5750
(social distancing and masks
are requested at this time)

East Helena Branch

11am-6pm Monday – Thursday
11am-5pm on Friday.
Closed Saturday and Sunday

including the PET SUPPLY DRIVE for the


Hours: Monday – Sunday: you choose the time.
Call Amanda for pricing:

• Since 2014
• Certified Vet Tech
• 2 degrees from MSU Bozeman, Pre Vet & Equine Science
• Rodeo Training / Miles / Green Broke / Trail Rides

• We train with calm, patience, trust and safety of the horse and owner in mind.
• For safety we will not train in high-winds or inclement weather unless owners have a barn.

First time clients receive 20% discount!


Help is right here!

Times are tough but nobody should go hungry or be left out in the cold! On this page are some resources to help you and your family:

Dept. of Public Health and Human Services: administers SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Call: 1.888.706.1535

Salvation ArmyEmergency food, clothing, shelter, and utility assistance. Call: 406.442.8244

God’s LoveProvides food, shelter, clothing, and any other basic necessities for transients and families. Call: 406.442.7000

LIEAP – Low Income Energy Assistance Program: pays part of winter energy bills for those eligible. Can also help in emergencies if your power is cut off for non payment. Call: 406.447.1625

Rocky Mountain Development Council:

If you know a family in need,
please share this information with them.

East Helena Pantry Is Currently Open!

The East Helena pantry is open with curbside Grab And Go service Mondays and Thursdays. The Lewis Street Pantry in Helena is open for both Choice Shopping inside or curbside Grab And Go service, depending on your preference, and is open Monday through Friday. If you are in need of food support, please come see us. We have food for all who need it, and all you have to do is show a form of ID and give the number of people in your household.

Curbside Service:
50 Prickly Pear Avenue N.
East Helena, MT 59635
(406) 443-3663

Monday 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Thursday 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

* * * * * * * * * 

In August 2019, the Montana Environmental Trust Group (METG) received the 2019 Excellence in Site Reuse Award from EPA Region 8 for successful work at the East Helena Superfund Site. The award celebrated the transformation of the East Helena Site through the work and dedication of the Custodial Trust and many federal, state, and local partners. The ceremony was held at Prickly Pear Elementary School, which opened in 2018 on land that METG donated to East Helena Public Schools. Read more about the award here.


This immense, gray/black slag pile in East Helena was formed by more than a hundred years of smelting lead, zinc, and other metals at the former ASARCO facility. METG (Montana Environmental Trust Group) is currently doing something about it. They plan to have Metallica Commodities Corp. transport 2,000,000 tons of unfumed slag by rail to the Port of Longview, Washington,  then by ship to South Korea for re-processing. Unfumed slag is material that did not originally  go to the zinc plant, so it has recoverable zinc. 


They expect to begin removal in April, 2021 and will continue for five years at a rate of 20,000 tons a month in 2021, then 30,000 tons a month in 2022. The intent is to have the project completed in five years. The planned removal of 2,000,000 tons represents the most contaminated portion of the (estimated) 14,000,000 ton slag pile. 


Finally, after the slag removal project is complete, METG will work to build a cap over the remaining slag pile. The cap will prevent stormwater from coming into contact with contamination and spreading any contaminated material from the slag.


         In 1993, Gary Thomas bought a building on Main Street in downtown East Helena, Montana for a practical reason: it was the closest commercial space to his house that he could afford. His plan was to change the nature of his business from retail to mail-order and do away with most of his products to concentrate on making sheepskin slippers. It turned out to be a great decision because of something he didn’t initially expect – East Helena is a truly great place to run and operate a business. It’s a small town that should brag about itself more often than it does. Downtown may only be a couple of blocks long, but it has filled up with incredible business owners who are all in it for the long haul. It’s a quiet place in good country.

            There are several reasons for why East Helena works out so well for an independent business. The commercial real estate is reasonably priced yet still easily accessible to the nearby population of the Helena area. Bank access, postal service and City Hall are a few things that are just down the street. The primary element that makes East Helena such a great location is its abundance of amazing neighbors – both in the business community and residents of the town. One of those neighbors that we would like to single out is our incredible local Post Office. We are a mail-order business, and we ship out over 2,000 packages each year. The East Helena Post Office is a local partner that we could hardly do without. Everyone on staff really goes out of their way to streamline the process and get our goods into the postal stream as effortlessly as possible. We owe those folks a tremendous amount of gratitude.

Our Founding
         High Plains Sheepskin was started in the cold and windy basins of southern Wyoming (hence the name “High Plains”) in 1975. Gary’s first shop was in Laramie, WY. After nine years, he moved to Last Chance Gulch in Helena, MT. Then, in 1993, Gary moved one final time to our current location at 5 West Main Street (formally known as Prickly Pear Junction) in East Helena, MT. We are right across the street from Dave and Annie’s restaurant, Main Street Easts (best breakfast around!), and next door to Stacks Clothing CO. & Antiques. This is our factory, warehouse, shipping center and retail outlet all rolled into one.

         Prior to starting High Plains, Gary had several years of experience in the tanning and industrial sheepskin industry. In the tannery, he worked as a sheepskin finisher and grader. As an apprentice under an old school Czech craftsman, Gary made sheepskin paint rollers, industrial applicators, and saddle pads. His passion for doing what he loved led him to work for himself, building High Plains Sheepskin from the ground up. Gary employed many ambition and talented people throughout the years who helped him build and sell his slippers, mittens, and hats. Spencer Haire was his final trusted employee and worked alongside him until Gary made his last pair of slippers. Gary Thomas tragically passed away in August of 2019 leaving Spencer and his wife Casey Sasek to purchase High Plains and continue providing his beloved sheepskin slippers to tens of thousands of customers around the country. They make a good team. Spencer manages the shop and makes all of the products while Casey’s background in banking allows her to handle the books and marketing. In 2020, they welcomed their first son, Jackson, to the wonderful world of sheepskin slippers.

         The new management of High Plains has also hired their first employee, Trevor Held, who is an East Helena native and part of the first graduating class of East Helena High School. Go Vigilantes!

         High Plains Sheepskin has always been a small business. We work all year to make thousands of slippers, mittens, and other products that we then ship to all 50 states, Canada and overseas. We enjoy what we do and love being a part of East Helena’s small but growing community. 

~ Prickly Pear Junction Welcomes Missouri River Brewing Company To East Helena ~

(Click this image to see full size)

Now Open!

PureView East Helena Clinic opened on May 20, 2019 and provides East Helena residents easier access to medical, dental and behavioral health services. The Clinic is a partnership between PureView Health Center, Intermountain and East Helena Public Schools and is located on the grounds of Prickley Pear Elementary School at 250 Academic Street.

The PureView Pharmacy will make daily deliveries to the East Helena Clinic, meaning less travel time for you and your family.  

All forms of insurance are accepted and a sliding fee scale is available for those who qualify.

The Clinic is open Monday-Friday,
9:00 AM – 6:00 PM.

For quality, affordable care in East Helena, look no further than the PureView East Helena Clinic.

For appointments: 
Call 406.457.8880 or 406.457.0000.

We look forward to serving you.

You can pick up your medication at the PureView East Helena Clinic or have it delivered to your door.  Delivery service is free within a 20 mile radius of PureView Health Center located at 1930 9th Avenue in Helena.  This service covers the entire city of East Helena!

CLICK HERE to see Duke’s crew in action!

J4 Automotive
Visit J4 Automotive Website

Kit and Vi Johnson started J4 Automotive over 22 years ago in 1994 with an SBA loan, some help from family members and a lot of prayers. Fast forward to today and we find the shop doing close to 1 million dollars in gross sales and still family owned and operated. The second generation of Johnson’s are now working in the business, with Kit and Vi’s daughter Nikita and her husband Chris carrying on the strong tradition of outstanding automotive repair and service and giving back to our community. The third generation of Johnson’s (the grand kids shown sitting with Viola) are growing up in the shop just like their mothers did and will most likely continue the family tradition well into the future.

J4 Automotive’s mission statement stresses community service, which they do a lot of. The yellow veterans ribbons, the kids activity tent in the Christmas stroll, sponsor of the spring school clean-up, the Halloween movie in the park and Frite-night are but some of the events Kit and Vi and the J4 Crew organize and participate in. Their experienced staff of seven, including three Master Mechanics, fix all makes and models of vehicles and are the recipient of many awards. The National Technician of the Year, and the Helena Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year are just a few examples of their commitment to excellence.

J4 Automotive is a Better Business Bureau A+ rated member, AAA Top Shop and NAPA AutoCare center that enjoys a 5 star Google and Yelp rating. Give them a call next time you need advice or maintenance and repair on your vehicle and use their convenient pick-up service while you work! 227-8622 or make an appointment on line at j4

Our helpful service advisors, Chris Pratt and Gena Berry will take care of you and your auto needs!

Sales of my artwork and art books on the ETSY Art/Craft website help support
Prickly Pear Junction “CLOUD”.
Click HERE to visit my ETSY Shop!

contact us: email  ~  ~  phone  ~  406.431.6026