Well our first stop in Montana was Campground St. Regis a small but very nice campground just outside, you guessed it, St. Regis.
We were told by our Canadian friends from Spokane we just had to go back into Idaho and visit a town called Wallace where, among other things, there was a very good Silver Mine tour.
And so it turned out, we really enjoyed the tour of the mine and the rest of the trolley bus tour gave us an orientation of Wallace.
We met our guide (an ex-miner of Swedish origin who had a very good sense of humour) and got kitted out with our hard hats.
We then had a look around Wallace itself. It is quite an old town that has the distinction of every downtown building being on the National Register of Historic Places. This came about because when they were building I90 they planned to knock down most of Wallace for the Interstate to go through, which obviously the inhabitants thought was a bad plan. A local businessman, Harry Magnuson, sued the Road building authorities saying they hadn’t done a proper environmental impact. And he won, and as part of that process got all the downtown buildings placed on the National Register which forced them to build I90 over Wallace on a flyover!!
It also considers itself to be the “Centre of the Universe” which came about because it claimed to be the centre of the silver mining area that had mined over 1.2 billion ounces of silver in the mines surrounding it. With a population of just 784 that is a pretty big boast, but you can see the plaque if you take your life in your hands as it is in the middle of a cross roads!!
There is also quite an interesting museum of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
Wallace was a very interesting place and well worth the trip if you are ever close by.
The following day we went to a local county fair. Local people displaying their handiwork, and their livestock, plus some events in the rodeo arena. Unfortunately the rodeo itself was not on until after we left the area.
And then we moved on to Indian Creek Campground, Deer Park which is just above Butte, Montana.
It never ceases to amaze me what we find on this trip of ours. Deer Lodge was chosen because it is just above Butte, Montana the site of the largest opencast copper mine in the country. But Deer Lodge itself was home to the Montana State prison Museum, a huge classic car museum and at least another 3 museums, plus the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site a completely preserved Ranch.
And right next door is a classic car museum with cars from very early Mercedes Benz (1886) to the classic cars of the 70’s & 80’s.
I could put up more pictures but there are over 160 cars in immaculate condition.
And outside were two immense trains.
The following day we came back to see the other museums and the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site.
All I can say is we were amazed that so much was available in a town with a total population of 3,111!!
So on to Butte, the reason we stayed in Deer lodge in the first place. We took the Trolley Bus tour.
Butte is a copper mining town established in 1864 and grew to become the largest copper mining town in the USA and at one time in the world. Incredible amounts of copper were mined using conventional techniques i.e. digging a shaft and then cutting galleries into the seam. Some of the mines were over 6,000 ft deep. In its heyday there were 19 mines (14 mine headframes are still standing) and in 1910 alone copper ore mined from the Butte mining district totalled 284,000,000 pounds (130,000 tons). It attracted miners from all over the world including Cornish miners from the tin mines hence why there are these.
In the 1950’s underground mining gave way to open cast mining leading to the creation of one of the largest open cast pits in the world, the Berkley Pit.
After the trolley bus tour we visited the World Museum of Mining which included another mine tour.
The Museum also had an old town section and a collection of dolls houses.
As always there is so much to see and we ran out of time.
From here we moved on to Livingston Montana and Yellowstone Park.