Here's an early mining town that didn't die, but turned to other pursuits. When the first strikes on Gold Creek started the excitement during the 1860s this camp was known as Cottonwood, LaBarge, and Spanish Forks. Investors began building mills to extract the silver and gold from the quartz. One such builder was named William Andrews Clark, who became one of the three richest men in Montana. During the 1880s the mines became one of the world's greatest copper producers. W. A. Clark built his home in the 60s in Deer Lodge at what is now 311 Clark Avenue.
In the 1850s Johnny Grant settled in the Deer Lodge Valley and established what was to become one of the largest ranching operations in the country. The Northern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1883 and Deer Lodge was the end of the line for immigrants heading west.
Relive history in Deer Lodge. This western town is nestled in a broad valley between the Continental Divide and the Flint Creek Mountain Range. More museums and historical collections can be found here than in any other town in the Northwest. In the summer, a free, horse-drawn trolley will carry you from site to site throughout the town. You'll enjoy restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, gift shops and all the amenities in the historical ambiance of Deer Lodge.
Things to do in Deer Lodge include:
Old Montana Prison: Deer Lodge was selected as the site for the Montana Territorial Prison. Built by convict labor, it opened its doors in 1871 and was in use until 1979. Guided and self-guided tours lead visitors beyond the gray stone wall and towers through the now unused prison with its 4-tiered cell block, gothic facade and huge prison yard. It remains a favorite location.
Montana Auto Museum: a unique museum with interpretive exhibits and over 120 antique cars on display, it's a must-see that will take you down memory lane. Vintage camping vehicles include a very rare motor home built by Pierce Arrow in 1928.
Frontier Montana Museum: the best display of cowboy collectibles between Cody and Calgary. See the guns, spurs, chaps, reatas and all the rest. Then tour Desert John's Saloon, a unique whiskey memorabilia collection.
Powell County Museum: an extensive gun collection as well as slot machines and juke boxes are featured in this local history museum.
Montana Law Enforcement Museum: details of Montana lawmen and crimes are here in the Old Montana Prison. Also contains a memorial to Montana Law Enforcement officers who have fallen in the line of duty.
The 'Little Joe': an all electric engine operated by the Milwaukee Road was originally built for Joseph Stalin.
Yesterday's Playthings: see an intriguing collection of dolls and toys from days gone by.
Area attractions include:
Grant-Kohrs Ranch: once the home of one of Montana's largest cattle barons, the ranch remained in the original family's hands until the National Park Service took over the operation. The original furnishings are in the house, the barns are full of the horse-drawn equipment used in the 1800s. A uniquely well-preserved slice of western history on the north end of Deer Lodge.
Garnet State Park: this ghost town west of Drummond is being restored to its original mining camp condition. A visitor center helps you take a step back to gold rush days. Stop in Deer Lodge to get directions to Garnet.
Warm Spring Ponds: an ARCO reclamation site, these ponds are popular for catch-and- release fishing, picnic area and wildlife viewing. Exit 171 off I-90 south of Deer Lodge.
Remnants of old mining camps can still be visited a few miles from town.
Activities and/or guided services for this area include ranch vacations and activities, hiking, hunting, fishing, golf and snowmobiling.
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