Thursday, October 25, 2001

Hello from Deer Lodge, Montana!

Start time: 0745

Start odometer: 21194

Weather: Cloudy skies, with some breaks in the clouds later in the afternoon, temperature 23 degrees F., peaking at 43.


I did a lot of touring today, seeing two parks, then two museums in one facility.  After the last one, it was late in the afternoon, so I decided to stay in Deer Lodge for the evening.  This town is known as the "Museum Capitol of Southwestern Montana," and has a population of 6620.  From an informational web site:

"Deer Lodge earned it's name from a thermal spring that gave off large amounts of vapor and built up a cone almost 40 feet high. From a distance the cone and vapor resembled an Indian lodge with smoke rising from it. Many Deer often frequented the area to feed; thus, the name Deer Lodge."


It was a cold morning, and not much of a sunrise due to the clouds.  But even though the weather was not great, I still had some very scenic views and interesting and historical sites to see.  At the advice of Barb and Wayne from the motel last night, I went to Bannack State Park.  It is located about forty miles southeast of Wisdom, and was an interesting drive past ranches, through a mountain pass, and through the town of Jackson.  Bannack, Montana, was the location of the first territorial capitol of Montana.  The town was the former site of gold mining, but was abandoned in the 1960s.  Several years later, there was much interest in preserving the buildings and the history of the town.  After much work, the town became a state park.  Upon entering the park, a self-guided tour is available with a very informative pamphlet.  This was a very interesting ghost town!

Click on picture for larger image, hit back button to return to this page.

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Main Street, Bannack!


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Upstairs, the Mason Hall.  Downstairs, the one room school.

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Originally the county courthouse when Bannack was the county seat, it was later converted into a hotel.

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Inside Hotel Meade, the main staircase off the side of the main lobby.

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The saloon!

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Some mule deer visiting the park.  Actually, I probably saw about twenty this morning.

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A garage and wagon.

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One of the miner houses!

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The town nearly experienced a visit from the Nez Perce Indians.

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A mine shaft that is blocked about twenty feet beyond the entrance.

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The jail built in the late 1800s.

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Inside one of the houses, I took this picture of several layers of wallpaper.

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The first church built in Bannack.

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The interior of the church.

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The hanging platform on its side.

After visiting the park, I drove back towards the northwest, through Jackson and Wisdom, then to the Big Hole National Battlefield.  Along the route, I stopped for the following two pictures.

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These are called Beaverslides, and were invented in the Big Hole Valley, patented in 1910 as a Sunny Slope Slide Stacker.  This device is used to create the twenty ton haystacks that are thirty feet tall seen throughout the valley.  This much hay is needed to feed the livestock through the long winters.

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A description of the Big Hole Valley.

Big Hole National Battlefield was my next destination.  This is one of several battle locations where the U.S. fought the Nez Perce Indians in 1877.  To save space here, please see this site for the history of what became to be known as the Nez Perce War.  The Visitor Center has some interesting exhibits and pictures.  They are working on a new video to show visitors, and had a video that describe the Nez Perce Indians and some of their battles, but was not specific to this park.  A very helpful and knowledgeable staff provided further information.

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The entrance sign...

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...To the Visitor Center.

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There are several trails in the park near the siege area.  This is a view of a section of the battlefield, where the park service has set up fifty-five teepee frames.  At the actual battle, approximately eighty-three teepees were erected.

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A wide angle view of the battlefield.

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This monument was placed in honor of the lost soldiers and volunteers.

Back on the road, I drove northeast towards Deer Lodge.  I stopped a couple of times enroute, including a state recreation area and the town of Anaconda, Montana.

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Mule Ranch Vista area.

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Mule ranch

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In Anaconda, I thought this was an interesting sight!

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Anaconda is also known for the "Big Stack!"  According to The New Roadside America, this was part of the Washoe Smelter Complex that shut down in the 1980's.  It is over 585 feet tall, and is the largest free-standing brick structure on earth!  Plans are to save the structure for some use in the future, but currently, according to the DEP, it leaks arsenic.

For my final stop of the day, I arrived in Deer Lodge.  This is the location of the Territorial Prison Museum, suggested by my friend Carla, who was here during this past summer.  A self guided tour is provided with a very informative pamphlet.  It was very interesting to learn about the history of the complex, the people involved, and the changes made over time.

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Informative sign at the entrance.

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One of the corners of the complex.

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Looking northeast, the main cellblock to the left.

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Inside one of the cells in East Siberia, a location with cells more remote than the cellblock.

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The cell of one of the lifelong prisoners.

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The west cellblock section.  It is four levels tall.

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Inside another cell.  At one point, the state added second bunks to many of the cells, raising complaints of overcrowding.

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Between the sections are pathways that provide access to plumbing and ventilation.  Guards were asked to walk these areas to listen in on the prisoner conversations.

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Notice the damage to bricks in the top right window under the turrets.  This is where a shell was fired in a riot that occurred in the late 1950s.

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A theater was built in the early 1900s for entertainment not only for the prisoners, but for the townspeople in the evenings after the prisoners had been locked in for the night.

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Inside the theater, where fire had gutted the interior in the 1970s.  In the picture is the gallows used throughout this area of the state.  Yes, there are thirteen stairs leading to the top!

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After visiting the Prison Museum, I went to the car museum, in the same complex.  This was another well designed museum with cars from the 1900s to 1970s.

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One more exterior shot of the prison.


Tomorrow I head west into Idaho, to travel along Route 12.  Eventually, probably Saturday, I will be in Washington,  Thank you for stopping by!


Routes traveled today: Montana 43 - Mt 278 - Mt 43 - Mt 274 - Mt 1 - Mt 48 - Mt 273

Lodging: Ima Scharfs Motor Inn - 102540.jpg (31877 bytes)

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Copyright 2001 Igor N. Nikishin

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