My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Sunday, September 21, 2014

An Unexpected Visit to a Ghost Town

There are not many trees that turn colors in the fall on the Bison Range, just several shrubs, some only inches high are providing red, yellow and orange colors. I wanted to photograph big trees in their brilliant fall color, so looked up some scenic drives and hikes before leaving at dawn on Saturday morning.

I drove towards Missoula still dithering between two drives, and finally decided on Highway 200.  But when I saw the turn for Hwy 210 which was running along a stream, I took it.  A few minutes into the drive, I saw several bighorn rams grazing along the side of the road. I ended up making a U-turn and trying to get pictures.  But most of them were in the shade of the mountain - the sun was barely up then.

Ram feeding just off the highway

Several miles further, I saw a sign for Garnet Ghost Town Byway.  The description of an old gold mining town sounded interesting and I hoped the road would climb to aspens,  so I started climbing on a paved road that soon became dirt. I took several smaller side roads for a while, looking for fall photo opportunities, until I reached a washout that was too deep and wide for my little fit to navigate. I had to back down the road, next to a few hundred foot drop, until I reached a place almost wide enough for two cars to pass, where I managed to get the Fit pointed back downhill.  The views were hazy mountain vistas of a totally coniferous forest.  After that episode,  I stayed on the main road.

I was disappointed in that I was STILL only finding colored shrubs, not the glorious gold and orange trees I wanted. Then I came to an area of cliffs and exposed rocks with  small  shrubs growing profusely, all covered in green, red, yellow or orange leaves of various sizes and shapes. I spent some time on a trail in the area before finally arriving at the ghost town of Garnett. Here I enjoyed the fall colors that were everywhere.

Near Garnet

Finally I arrived at the parking lot which reveals nothing of what is left of the town, except for a informational kiosk. But a short walk down an easy slope gets you to an overlook of what is left of a town that once numbered about 1000.

Part of the exhibit in the kiosk

View looking down at the town - shot with my wide angle lens that screws to the lens on my camera

I would have liked to have come here earlier when the Visitor Center was open and, hopefully, taken a guided tour. I did find an excellent brochure that both gave the history of the town and told about each of the still standing buildings. They closed last weekend and the entire park will close in two more weeks.

The town is named for the Garnets that often occur with gold and quartz.  It is build very haphazardly with no evidence of private yards.  Many of the cabins were built at mine claims. The town was in its heyday in the late 1800's.  It has been a ghost town since 1947.

Many of the buildings are empty but some of the public ones held a few artifacts, which helped me picture life here.

Loved how long the Blue Ribbon Beer sign has lasted

The Adams family lived here from 1904 to 1927 - one of the nicer homes and had covered extensions no longer standing

I liked this simple composition on the McDonald cabin - one of two that can be rented in the winter

At the time it was built (1896-1900) this was one of the nicer houses and even had picket fence around it. It used to have a covered passageway to the woodshed and outhouse.

Thought this might have been a church but it was one of 13 bars offering
male-oriented entertainment - seen from the back
Frank Davey started his store about 1898. It sold everything and had an office to weigh gold. The meat and other perishables were stored in the ice-house which also had three hidden compartments in which to store gold. The next four pictures show parts of the interior of the store which had two large rooms as well as the ice room.

There are very few actual displays

Kenmore has been around a LONG time

Shoes in the general store

A place to gossip and probably play checkers

A hotel kitchen

Very faded glory of the most elegant building there - a hotel

One of the rooms to let in the hotel

A carriage that belonged to the owner of the general store

The Ole Dahl house, built in 1938 - the other cabin that can be rented in the winter

I also walked the trail that has some of the mining artifacts around it and one visible mine. However the brochure box was empty so I couldn't make much sense of of what I saw.

Some of the mine artfacts


This looked like a well but I think it brought ore to the surface. 

I suspect this might have been used to pull cars of ore out of the mines

This kind of gold was the only gold I saw today