In last week’s entry we visited the old silver mining camps at the head of Trapper Creek in Montana’s East Pioneer Mountains. Typically, where you find old productive silver mines you will discover the ruins of a smelting operation in the vicinity.
In 1875 a 40-ton smelter was built downstream on Trapper Creek about five miles northeast from the mines. The settlement of mill workers that grew up around it was named Glendale with a post office being opened the same year. Numerous smelter employees and their families soon made their home in Glendale, which was much tamer and civilized than the (mostly male) mining camps upstream. The population averaged around 2,000 souls for the nearly 30 years the smelter operated. Ruins of the smelter and several other buildings remain.
Furnaces in a smelting operation require large amounts of fuel to heat the ore in order to release the precious metal trapped within. The primary choice of fuel for the Glendale smelter was charcoal. Charcoal is produced by burning cord wood under controlled conditions. Initially, charcoal for the smelter was produced via earthen pits where oxygen to the fires could be controlled by dirt piled on top of the wood. While this method was easy and required no capital investment, it was inefficient. In the early 1880’s twenty three brick kilns were constructed about five miles northwest of Glendale on Canyon Creek where timber was abundant along with clay for making the bricks. These kilns employed scores of men, both to operate and to harvest the huge amounts of wood to keep them burning around the clock. A good wood cutter who could cut and deliver two cords of wood per day was paid $8 – $10 for his efforts. As wood was depleted in the immediate area around the kilns a wood chute was constructed up the steep hillside to the north to access the large plateau area above known as Vipond Park. If you look up the hillside you can still spot the remains of the platform used to load the wood into the chute. The forest service has restored three of the kilns to their original appearance and installed interpretive signs.
Those looking for additional areas to explore will want to head up to Vipond Park where you will not only find the remains of the wood cutting operations, but smaller mining operations and the ghosts of the Vipond brothers who settled in the area in 1868.Wide open adventuring in the East Pioneer Mountains is a great adventure in RVing!
To get there and visit: Head west from Melrose on Trapper Creek Road to Glendale, which is located at: N45° 38.530 W112° 46.943 Note: Glendale is located on private property and you are requested to please view the remains of Glendale from the public road.
To reach the Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns: Turn right on Canyon Creek Road on the west “outskirts” of Glendale. Continue on Canyon Creek Road for about 5 miles, until you reach the kilns at: N45° 40.771 W112° 52.215
Those wanting to continue and possess way finding skills will find the platform of the wood loading chute at: N45° 41.123 W112° 52.207 The roads to Glendale and the Kilns are will graded and suitable for two wheel drive vehicles. The road to Vipond Park is a steep single lane road, not suitable for longer vehicles.
Click here to view a video of Glendale
Click here to view a video of the kilns.