Anaconda was founded in 1883 by Marcus Daly, one of the Copper Kings of the area who personally picked this spot for the smelting process because of its ample water and limestone. It is home to the largest smokestack in the world, a remnant of the glory days of mining.
The town in the mouth of a narrow valley near the Continental Divide grew up around the giant smelter built by Marcus Daly. Daly picked the site for his smelter when the air quality in the booming town of Butte was being fouled by Butte’s smelters. Only 35 miles from Butte, Daly liked this site because it was near ample water and limestone. As the story goes, Daly saw a cow grazing in the valley, pointed to it, and said he wanted the Main Street of his new town to run north and south right through the cow. The town was platted in 1883 and named Copperopolis. Shortly after that, the postmaster found out there was already Copperopolis in Meagher County and renamed the city for the giant mine in Butte.
It is said that when copper is in demand, both smelter and town prosper; but when the mines are quiet, so is Anaconda. Interestingly, the name Anaconda is not related to copper but comes from a newspaper reference to the large, South American snake bearing this name. Michael Hickey was a Union Army veteran and an adventurous Irish miner. He had once read an article by Horace Greeley describing Grant’s army "encircling Lee’s forces like a giant anaconda." As Hickey recalled, "That word struck me as a mighty good one. I always remembered it, and when I wanted a name for my mine, I remembered Greeley’s editorial and called it the ‘Anaconda.’" Hickey’s mine led to one of Butte’s richest copper veins. Later, the world’s largest copper mining, smelting, and fabricating organization took the name—the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.
Anaconda opens the door to the Pintler Primitive area, Deerlodge National Forest, Lost Creek State Park, Discovery Ski Basin, the Big Hole Battlefield, Georgetown Lake, and ghost towns west of town. In nearby mountains, sapphires, garnets, fossils, and gold can be found to the delight of rock-hunters of every age.