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In This Issue:

A Ghostly Past

By Kristin E. Hill


Looking for something different to do this fall? Step back in time with a visit to one of the Treasure State’s many ghost towns. Historians estimate that more than 600 mining camps sprang to life in Montana during the late 1800s, and while most of these faded away with the dashed hopes of disappointed miners, some have weathered the elements.  Although each surviving town’s history is distinctly different, these decaying glimpses of yesteryear unite to recount a story of hard work, dreams for a prosperous future, and the rough and tumble life of the 19th century Old West.  

Bring your ATV, a four-wheel drive, or a sturdy pair of hiking boots to visit this ghost town situated at an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet. Located south of Big Timber and the beautiful Boulder River Valley, Independence not only offers history buffs mine shafts, miner’s cabins, and a brothel, but also picturesque views of the surrounding Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area and a possible encounter with moose, elk, deer, and bears. Don’t forget to do a little fishing along the way! Locate: Drive South of Big Timber and McLeod on Highway 298. The highway eventually turns into a dirt Forest Service Road. 

Nevada City
Located in southwest Montana, Nevada City was just one of many wild mining camps that sprang to life in the early 1860s after gold was found in nearby Alder Gulch. The town quickly became a prominent trading post, and gold dust and nuggets were freely exchanged for goods while the gold boom lasted. Today, the town is lined with five streets of shops, homes, Chinatown, and a school. While some of the buildings are original to the site, many have been brought in from other Montana ghost towns to create a truly authentic 19th century atmosphere. Visitors today are treated to living history days, tours, and one of the world’s largest mechanical music machine collections. Locate: State Highway 287 southwest of Ennis.

Bannack State Park
Once known as the toughest town in the West, Bannack served as Montana’s first territorial capital and was the site of Montana’s first major gold rush. After gold was discovered in 1862 in nearby Grasshopper Creek, prospectors from near and far flocked to the region, mushrooming Bannack’s population to 3,000 in just one year. Life was not all work and play in this mining town, though. An organized gang of murderers, robbers, and road agents known as “The Innocents” plagued the region, and infamous Sheriff Henry Plummer wasn’t about to intervene since he secretly led the group. Historians estimate that 102 men were murdered in Bannack’s early days with several others beaten and robbed before a group of law-abiding vigilantes formed to combat the terror. Today, remains of more than sixty buildings still stand, including Skinner’s Saloon where Plummer’s gang planned many of their escapades. Locate: 5 miles south of Dillon on I-15, then 21 miles west on Secondary Highway 278, followed by 4 miles south on county road.

Gold Creek
Drawing upon French half-breed Francois Finlay’s 1852 hopeful discovery of colors in a nearby creek, James and Granville Stuart, Reece Anderson, and Thomas Adams prospected this area in 1858. What they found convinced them that Montana Territory was the next land of opportunity, and news of the first gold strike in Montana quickly spread to disgruntled miners from Colorado to California. Although the strike was small and Gold Creek never boomed in the same way as Nevada City or Bannack, the town was reputable enough to host such infamous characters as Henry Plummer, at least for a short while. Locate: I-90 between Drummond and Garrison. 

Unlike most Montana Territory towns of the 19th century, Bearmouth was not a mining camp, but rather a town that thrived on the stagecoach industry and gold ore shipments from nearby placer camps. From the late 1800s to early 1900s, rich ore from the nearby towns of Garnet, Beartown, and Coloma were brought to Bearmouth to be shipped to smelters, while stagecoaches traveling the Mullan Road used Bearmouth as a convenient stopover point. With so many travelers passing through, Bearmouth’s most recognizable buildings were a large livery and a beautiful two-story balconied inn, both of which still stand today. Locate: I-90 between Clinton and Drummond. 

Located in the scenic Garnet Mountain Range, Garnet burst onto the Montana mining scene with rich placer deposits and boomed from 1895-1911. During its heyday, Garnet was home to several thousand miners and their families and boasted a hotel, store, Chinese laundry, school, drug store, barber shop, assay office, numerous saloons, and several private cabins. After the gold deposits began to wane, most of Garnet’s residents moved on to more hopeful prospects, but some miners and residents lingered as late as 1950. While some of the original structures have since collapsed, many remain to this day, making Garnet one of Montana’s best preserved ghost towns. Don’t miss the Garnet Visitor Center and self-guided tour brochure during your visit. Locate: Garnet Backcountry Byway 35 miles east of Missoula.

Elkhorn State Park
Dating back to Swiss native Peter Wye’s silver discovery in 1870, Elkhorn quickly boomed into a mining community that thrived for nearly thirty years. In 1875, the Elkhorn Mine was developed, followed by a mill in 1884, a smelter in 1885, and daily rail service in 1887. By 1888, monthly production was more than $30,000, and Elkhorn supported a population of 2,500 with many more miners nestled in outlying areas. The 1897 silver market crash spelled the beginning of the end, and by 1900, the mine had produced more than 4 million pounds of lead, 8,500 ounces of gold, and an impressive 8,902,000 ounces of silver. While miners attempted to revive the town in 1901 and 1905, Elkhorn had seen the last of its glory days with the dawn of the 20th century. Today, just a handful of residents remain along with several original buildings. Although most of the buildings are privately owned, the Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall have not been restored and are open to public exploration. Locate: Boulder Exit on I-15, then 7 miles south on Montana Highway 69, then 11 miles north on a country road.

Silver and lead reigned supreme in this easily accessible ghost town dating back to 1882. Named after nearby Castle Mountain, the town boomed to a peak population of 2,000 residents and boasted a $5,000 school house, a jail, eighty dwellings, fourteen saloons, seven brothels, and three daily stage lines. Castle’s most famous claim to fame, though, was resident Calamity Jane. Joined by her daughter and a few friends, Jane briefly attempted to run a restaurant in Castle, but she soon grew weary of the quiet life and left town to pursue wilder days. When the 1890’s silver panic struck, many of Castle’s residents followed in Jane’s footsteps, and by 1936, just two residents remained. While the town has been deserted for decades, several of its original structures still stand. Locate: Route 294 off Highway 89 near White Sulphur Springs.

Take a Pass Around Helena

Excerpted from “The Ultimate Montana Atlas & Travel Encyclopedia”

McDonald Pass

The Continental Divide skirts Helena to the west, and there is more than one way to cross it—each offering spectacular scenery.

McDonald Pass
This 6,323-foot pass 15 miles southwest of Helena on Highway 12 has a vista point at the top that has stunning views of the valley below. If you can visit it in the evening, you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the lights of Helena.

Flesher Pass
To reach this and Stemple Pass, take Montana Avenue north to Lincoln Road. Head west toward the mountains. The road begins a quick winding ascent once it reaches the mountain. Plenty of switchbacks offer incredible views of the Helena National Forest. From the top of the pass at 6,350 feet, you can see a beautiful panorama of the Blackfoot River Valley. By the way, when you cross the pass, you are not too far from Ted Kazinski’s hideaway. Make no mistake; the folks around here are not proud of that fact.

Stemple Pass
Follow the directions to Flesher Pass, but watch for Stemple Pass Road about eight miles after you pass through Canyon Creek and before you reach Flesher. It will be on your left. This is a more isolated pass and the road here is gravel.

Mullan Pass
While the road to this pass is gravel and four-wheel drive is recommended, it is certainly the most interesting pass if you’re a history buff. The pass was discovered by U.S. Army Capt. John Mullan in 1853. He drove the first wagon over it a year later. In 1860—four years before prospectors discovered gold in Last Chance Gulch—he supervised construction of the road over the pass. Helena simply didn’t exist at that time which is why the road didn’t bother to swing through town.

Mullan Road stretched 624 miles from Walla Walla, Washington to Fort Benton, Montana. An interesting side note for those of you who are Masons: the campground at the top of the Divide was the site of the Montana Territory’s first Masonic meeting in July 1862.

To get to Mullan Pass, take Birdseye Road northwest out of Helena and turn southwest on Austin Road. It’s gravel from here. You’ll see a long railroad tunnel that was built in 1882. After transiting the pass, the road reconnects with Highway 12 just below McDonald Pass.

Montana Road Trivia

From “Montana Trivia” by Janet Spencer, Riverbend Publishing

Click here for price and order information and to view more Ultimate Press products

Q.  Are there more miles of trails or roads in Yellowstone?

A. A thousand miles of trail versus 466 miles of roads.

Q. While Billings has 450 miles of public roads within its city limits, how many does Rexford, population 132, have?

A. 1.38 miles, the least of any incorporated city in the state.

Q. Montana’s cities contain how many miles of alleys?

A. 884, about the same as the driving distance from Alzada in the southeast corner of the state to Yaak in the northwest corner.

Q. The state’s first highway, built in 1923, consisted of twenty-six miles of concrete connecting what two key mining towns?

A. Butte, where the ore was mined, and Anaconda, where the ore was smelted.

Q. What percentage of Montana’s approximately seventy thousand miles of roads are paved?

A. Twenty-five percent.

Recipe from:
Cooking Backyard to Backcountry

By John Rittel & Lori Rittel, M.S.,R.D., Riverbend Publishing

Click here for price and order information and to view more Ultimate Press products

While growing up on their Rocky Mountain family ranch, John Rittel and his sister Lori spent more time in the great outdoors than indoors. As a result, not only did they develop an affinity for recreating outside, but also for cooking outside over an open fire. Through the years, this brother and sister duo have perfected the art of outdoor cooking, turning routine meal preparation into a unique and entertaining experience perfect for sharing with friends and family. Featuring a variety of outdoor cooking techniques ranging from the backyard grill to the Dutch oven to fire pits in the wilderness, the cookbook includes a wide assortment of recipes and all the cooking tips you need to create a memorable and delicious outdoor feast.



1 / 4 cup coriander seeds
2 Tbsp. white peppercorns
1 / 4 cup sesame seeds
2 1 / 2 tsp. soy sauce
1 1 / 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 Tbsp. liquid hot pepper seasoning
2 lbs chicken breast, boneless, skinless, cut into large chunks
4 green onions, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. ginger, minced
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
2 red bell peppers, halved, seeded and quartered
2 red onions, peeled, quartered
salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 limes, quartered, for garnish

1. Prepare shake topping:
In a small sauté pan, combine the coriander, peppercorns, and sesame
seeds and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan, until the first wisp of
smoke appears, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow shake to cool.
Place the toasted spices on a flat surface and place a small sauté pan on
top of them. Holding the handle with one hand, place the other hand
palm side down in the center of the pan and apply pressure, rolling the
pan over the spices to crack them.

2. Make the dipping sauce & prepare the chicken:
In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and
liquid hot pepper seasoning. Mix well, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the chicken chunks, green onions, ginger,
and sesame oil and toss well.

3. Thread the chicken onto skewers alternately with the bell pepper and
onion chunks, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and grill over
a medium fire 5-7 minutes per side. To check for doneness, cut into
one of the pieces of chicken. It is done when it is opaque all the way

4. Place the chicken skewers on a platter, sprinkle with the shake
topping, garnish with the lime wedges, and serve with the dipping
sauce on the side.

Featured Books

Grand Teton Trivia

By Charlie Craighead
Riverbend Publishing

Click here for price and order information and to view more Ultimate Press products

A new book by a local author does a great job of making all kinds of facts about Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole easily accessible and fun to learn. Grand Teton Trivia by Charlie Craighead of Moose, Wyoming covers the area’s history, geology, plants, animals, and many more subjects in an entertaining question-and-answer format, much like a trivia game. For example, who was the first woman to climb the Grand Teton? Answer: Colorado phys-ed teacher Eleanor Davis, in 1923.

The questions cover the obvious, such as the height of Grand Teton (13,770 feet) and the not so common, such as: How much do elk antlers weigh? Answer: A large set of antlers on a mature bull could weigh 40 pounds.

Craighead is a writer and filmmaker who grew up in a family of biologists. His nature cinematography appears in dozens of films, and his book credits include “Never a Bad Word or a Twisted Rope – The Stories of Glenn Exum,” and “Meet Me at the Wort – Legends and Lore of the Historic Wort Hotel.” He also has written a series of guidebooks for Grand Teton National Park and co-wrote a film on the Jenny Lake Rescue Rangers. He is currently producing a film on the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.

With a wealth of information presented in a lively, engaging format, “Grand Teton Trivia” is a must-have book for fans of the area and a good way for anyone of any age to learn more about one of Wyoming’s most famous landscapes.

The Ultimate Montana Atlas and Travel Encyclopedia - Yellowstone Gateway Edition

by Michael Dougherty, Heidi Pfeil-Dougherty and Kristin Hill

Click here for price and order information and to view more Ultimate Press products

Brand new! Now Shipping! The newest offering from Ultimate Press covers the Yellowstone Gateway Region from Red Lodge to Virginia City. Now in full color, the book exceeds the reputation of Ultimate Press for providing the most comprehensive books available on areas in the Northern Rockies. The book has 184 color pages packed with maps, photos, history, attractions, dining, lodging, camping, fishing, hikes, scenic drives, and more. It also contains a complete guide (50+ pages) to touring Yellowstone National Park. Over 72 maps including highway, town and city, demographic, tours, ski areas, camping and fishing, and more. But rather than waste space telling you about the incredible amount of content in the book, visit the Ultimate Press bookstore and order a copy for yourself today or download the entire book for free!

Includes complete guide to Yellowstone National Park — Complete information on the Montana gateway area from Virginia City to Red Lodge — 73 maps: highway, city and town, tours, specialty — All restaurants — All Motels — All public campgrounds — All private campgrounds — All Forest Service cabins — Travel and relocation information — Airports — Fishery information — Lewis & Clark points of interest — Public golf courses — Museums and historical sites — Historical information — Hot springs — Hikes — Cross-Country Ski Trails — Downhill ski area information — Scenic drives and sidetrips — Ghost towns — Attractions — Adventure — Hundreds of photographs — Weather information — Information on all cities and towns — Directory of schools, churches, government offices, municipal offices, businesses and more!

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