Bannack Ghost Town Montana: A Journey Through Gold Rush History
Explore the intriguing past of Bannack Ghost Town, Montana, a well-preserved relic of the Wild West and gold mining era. Located in the heart of Montana, this historic destination offers visitors a unique opportunity to step back in time and experience the rich history of the American West.
From its gold discovery to its lawless days, Bannack Ghost Town, Montana has many stories to tell. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the fascinating history, main attractions, and recreational activities that make this ghost town a must-visit destination.
Bannack Ghost Town Montana: The Birth of a Gold Rush Town
In July 1862, John White and other “Pikes Peaker” prospectors discovered gold in the waters of Grasshopper Creek, where Bannack stands today. This marked the beginning of Bannack and the State of Montana, considered one of the last frontiers.
The discovery of gold in the creek quickly led to the establishment of a mining camp, which attracted thousands of people seeking their fortunes.
As the population grew, so did the town’s infrastructure, with buildings springing up overnight to accommodate the influx of miners and their families. However, Bannack was not without its challenges. The town faced lawlessness and violence, as well as harsh Montana winters that tested the resilience of its residents.
Despite these obstacles, Bannack persevered and played a significant role in developing Montana as a state. Today, visitors to Bannack Ghost Town Montana can witness the remnants of this once-thriving gold rush town, with over 60 standing structures waiting to be explored.
Exploring Bannack Ghost Town Montana: Main Attractions
Bannack Ghost Town, Montana boasts a wealth of well-preserved structures that offer a glimpse into the town’s past. As you wander through the streets of this historic site, be sure to visit some of the most notable buildings and attractions:
Built in 1877, the Methodist Church was the first building in Bannack constructed exclusively for worship. The church was erected to thank God for saving the town’s residents from a potential Nez Perce attack that never materialized. Step inside this photogenic church to imagine worship services during Bannack’s mining heyday.
Originally serving as the Beaverhead County Courthouse, Dr. John Singleton Meade converted this red brick building into a luxurious hotel in 1891. Hotel Meade was considered the community’s social hub, where guests dined at tables adorned with fine china and linen tablecloths.
Although the hotel operated sporadically until the 1940s, it remains an impressive example of late 19th-century luxury lodging.
Masonic Lodge and School
This two-story, white-framed building is perhaps the most photographed structure in Bannack. The top floor housed Bannack’s Masonic Lodge No. 16, which still remains active today. The first floor served as a schoolhouse, where children attended classes from the 1870s until the 1940s.
Step inside to imagine sitting at one of the antique desks while the wind from a Montana blizzard whipped through the building’s cracks.
No visit to Bannack Ghost Town Montana is complete without stepping into Skinner’s Saloon. Owned by notorious outlaw Cyrus Skinner, the saloon was a gathering place for criminal gangs and a hotbed of illicit activity. Though the days of lawlessness are long gone, Skinner’s Saloon provides a fascinating glimpse into Bannack’s darker past.
Experience the harsh conditions of incarceration in the Wild West by visiting Bannack’s two jails. The original jail, built in 1863, is believed to be Montana’s first jail, while the second jail was constructed later in the 1860s. Prisoners held in these jails could see the gallows looming ominously on a nearby hill.
Rumored to be the spookiest building in Bannack, the Bessette House once served as a quarantine center for patients with contagious diseases. Visitors have reported hearing the sounds of children crying within the house, adding to its eerie reputation.
Located uphill from the main town, Bannack’s cemetery serves as the final resting place for miners, convicted criminals, and other residents. Each grave is surrounded by a picket fence, providing a serene and poignant reminder of the town’s history.
Recreational Activities at Bannack Ghost Town Montana
Apart from exploring the historic buildings and sites, visitors to Bannack Ghost Town Montana can also enjoy a variety of recreational activities:
Try your hand at gold panning during supervised sessions held each weekend afternoon in the summer. All necessary mining supplies are provided, so all you need to do is find the gold!
Grasshopper Creek winds through Bannack State Park, offering fishing opportunities for visitors. Bring your fishing gear and try your luck at catching a meal in the creek’s waters.
Experience the thrill of camping in a ghost town by staying at one of Bannack State Park’s two campgrounds. The Vigilante and the Road Agent Campground offer RV and tent sites and a tepee for rent.
The hills surrounding Bannack Ghost Town, Montana provide excellent hiking opportunities. Legend has it that Sheriff Henry Plummer’s hidden loot lies somewhere within these hills, so keep your eyes peeled for a potential treasure as you explore the area.
Ice Skating on Dredge Pond
During winter (January to March), visitors can enjoy ice skating on the frozen dredge pond. Be sure to call ahead to check if the pond is open, as it may close due to adverse weather conditions.
Visiting Bannack Ghost Town Montana: Practical Information
To make the most of your visit to Bannack Ghost Town, Montana, keep the following practical information in mind:
- Bannack is located about 30 miles from Interstate 15 in Montana. Take the exit to Highway 278 to reach the ghost town.
- Bannack is open year-round, with winter operating hours from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and summer hours from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm. The Visitor Center is open daily during the summer and on weekends during the off-season.
- Admission to Bannack State Park is $6 per vehicle for non-Montana residents and free for Montana residents.
- Dress appropriately for the weather, as the town’s buildings are neither heated nor air-conditioned. Wear sturdy shoes for walking on gravel, dirt, and old stairs and floors.
- Bring cash in small bills for entry fees and self-guided tour pamphlets, especially if you arrive before the Visitor Center opens.
- Pack drinks, snacks, or a picnic, as there are no food or fuel services in Bannack.
Bannack Ghost Town, Montana offers a unique and captivating glimpse into the gold rush history of the American West. With its well-preserved structures, fascinating stories, and recreational activities, Bannack is a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and adventure-seekers alike.
Step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich legacy of Bannack Ghost Town, Montana.