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LOLO - Travelers' Rest State Park opens for the season Saturday, sporting a new trail across the cottonwood flats that twice provided respite for the Corps of Discovery.

Whether guided by volunteer docents or a new 10-stop brochure, visitors will find themselves alongside the famous expedition's central cook fire and a long-buried latrine. There'll be lessons in cottonwood ecology, bitterroot flowers, Indian use of the camp and the importance of riparian areas.

The trail will provide the first-ever public access to the expedition's historic campsite along Lolo Creek, a place known to Salish and Nez Perce Indians for generations before Meriwether Lewis and William Clark took extended layovers there in 1805 and 1806.

The interpretation will be the work of newly hired interpretive specialist Melissa Sladek - another something new as the state park begins its second season.

Saturday's opening will be celebrated with a "Walk By the Light of the Moon" hosted by the Bitterroot National Forest - and dubbed, appropriately, the "Travelers' Moon."

The forest hosts a series of full moon walks, and suggested the April moon could shine upon Travelers' Rest, Sladek said. Featured topics on the walk will include a retelling of the story of Lewis and Clark's harrowing journey over the Bitterroot Mountains, a look at the traditional travel of Salish people over the Bitterroots, and a presentation on animal use of the Lolo trail and valley.

The moon walks will begin between 8 and 8:30 p.m. As is the custom, the walks will have a staggered, flexible start and finish to allow visitors to participate at their own pace, and in smaller groups. Participants might want to bring a flashlight in case the moon hides behind the clouds.

Travelers' Moon pins will be available for a small donation.

Of course, Travelers' Rest State Park will open for the day at 8 a.m. - and will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Interpretive programs will run Saturdays and Sundays, every hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Beginning Memorial Day weekend, the park will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Interpretive programs will be available daily, again on the hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Admission fee is $2; children 12 and under are free.

Travelers' Rest is located just south of Lolo, on Mormon Creek Road, just off Highway 93. Watch for the park entrance sign on Highway 93. Or call the park office at 273-4253.

Reporter Sherry Devlin can be reached at 523-268 or sdevlin@missoulian.com.

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