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Skalkaho Pass and Wildlife Area
3 miles south of Hamilton and east on Hwy. 38

Highway 38 just a few miles south of Hamilton is also known as the Skalkaho Highway. This drive into the mineral rich Sapphire Mountains takes you on some of Montana’s least traveled mountain roads. The highway was once a heavily used trail for Indians. A road was built over the route in 1924 to link the mining areas in the mountains with the agricultural communities of the Bitterroot Valley. This is a gentle winding drive that offers some excellent views and takes you past Skalkaho Falls. You can turn around at the falls, or continue on the Pintlar Scenic Highway near Philipsburg.

If you’re adventurous, take a sidetrip to the Skalkaho Basin. This was once a wildlife preserve and still offers excellent opportunities to view a wide range of wildlife. In the fall, you can find large herds of elk here and hear them bugling, especially east of Kneaves and Fool Hen lakes. There is also the possibility you may see moose, mule deer, wolverines, badgers, coyotes, and black bear. When you reach the pass, about 27 miles from Hwy. 93, turn north on FR 1352 and drive approximately five miles to the basin.

Reprinted from The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia

On This Date in Montana--June 6, 1863

The six men who discovered Alder Gulch were not real adept at keeping a secret. Their plan was to “sneak” out of Bannack with the horses and supplies they had purchased with their new gold. The discoverers--Bill Fairweather, Tom Cover, Henry Edgar, Barney Hughes, Harry Rogers, and Mike Sweeney--just had that “look” about them and spent a little too freely. When they left town they were followed by 200 men who had been observing their behavior for the past week. Just before reaching Alder Gulch, they realized there was no fooling the followers and confessed to the new find. Not before sending Barney Hughes ahead to secure their claims though. On the trail they called a miner’s meeting with the followers to establish some rules. No miner could possess more than two claims. A claim was 200 feet wide in the bed of the gulch or to the center of the stream in wider parts. A miner had to work his claim at least three days a week to retain title to it. Stuart Granville no doubt used a little hyperbole when he claimed “The Alder Gulch diggings were the richest gold placer diggings ever discovered in the world.” They were rich. According to Granville “the district extended from the foot of Old Baldy to twelve miles down the creek, and the bed of the creek and the bars on both sides were uniformly rich; the bed rock being literally paved with gold.” Virginia City was established here and grew to nearly 10,000 inhabitants before the gold played out.

Reprinted from The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia

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