Over the past several months we have been exploring the mining history of western Montana. In one of the recent entries an RVer asked me if the road to the mining camps was motorhome friendly. Unfortunately, it was not, but accessible by a tow vehicle or toad. So, this week, we will visit a historic Montana mining town accessible for everyone to explore.
Bannack, MT., was founded in 1862 when John White found placer gold in Grasshopper Creek. As news of the gold discovery spread, hoards of prospectors and businessmen rushed to the new strike hoping to make their fortune. Two years later, Bannack was designated as the first Territorial Capital of Montana. However, when gold was discovered in nearby Virginia City many left Bannack for the new strike taking the Capital with them. This was not the end of Bannack however, as some remained in Bannack exploring different mining techniques to liberate the gold from the earth. From the late 1860’s to the 1930’s, Bannack survived as a mining town with an ever changing population. By the 1950s, recovery of gold had slowed to a dribble and the majority of folks had moved on. Fortunately, at that point in time, the State of Montana declared Bannack a State Park, preserving it for future generations to enjoy. Today, over 60 buildings remain standing, the majority of which can be explored by the public. People from all over the world visit this renowned ghost town to experience Montana’s mining history.
If you happen to visit Bannack during the third weekend in July you will be treated to Bannack Days. It is a wonderful time to visit Bannack and celebrate pioneer life and relive Bannack’s glory days. Demonstrations include: spinning wool into yarn, quilting, gold panning, learning how wagon wheels were made, blacksmithing and basket weaving. You can also shoot a black-powder rifle in nearby Hangman’s Gulch among other activities. As always, keep your gold pouch securely tucked away and watch out for outlaws or a gunfight or two!
Exploring Montana’s mining past, just another adventure in RVing!
Bannack State Park has two campgrounds containing 33 campsites. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire-ring. Firewood is available and trash disposal is provided. The Road Agent Campground is shaded by old cottonwood trees. The Vigilante Campground is the larger of the two campgrounds and is more suitable for larger RVs. Water is available. Click here for more information. New for 2016 is the options of making reservations.
Boondocking: Less than a mile away off Bannack Bench Road is a place to boondock on BLM land at N45° 09.755 W113° 00.963 Standard BLM dispersed camping rules apply.
Those looking to visit for just the day: Day use parking lots will accommodate larger RVs, but may be near capacity during peak times. You might consider dropping your RV off at the Bannack turn off from Hwy 278 where Bannack Bench Road meets the highway. There is a large gravel area located southeast of the intersection. You can then proceed the 4 miles to the ghost town in your tow vehicle or dinghy.