Garnet Montana Ghost Town: A Step Back in Time
Garnet Montana Ghost Town is an enchanting and well-preserved historic site nestled in the mountains and forests of west-central Montana. This captivating ghost town dates back to the 1860s and offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience the rich history of the American West.
In this comprehensive guide, I will explore the fascinating history, intriguing legends, and many attractions this charming ghost town offers.
The History of Garnet Montana Ghost Town
Garnet Montana Ghost Town has a rich and storied past. Established in the 1890s, this former mining town was once a thriving community boasting a population of nearly 1,000 people during its peak years.
However, like many mining towns of its time, Garnet faced various challenges and eventually became a deserted ghost town. Let’s delve deeper into the fascinating history of this captivating site.
The Birth of a Mining Town
The story of Garnet Montana begins in the 1860s when prospectors discovered gold in the area. Placer mining was practiced around the area later to be established as Garnet, and gold was found at the First Chance Gulch in 1865.
Miners worked about 50 mines nearby, and the town was officially founded in 1895.
It was named after the semi-precious garnet rock first mined there before gold was found. The town was initially called Mitchell, but it later changed to Garnet.
The Boom Years
The most prosperous years for Garnet Montana Ghost Town were between 1895 and 1910. During this time, the town saw a significant population boom, with nearly 1,200 residents at its peak.
The town had four hotels, four stores, two barbershops, a butcher shop, a doctor’s office, laundry facilities, and thirteen saloons. Garnet was also home to a school, and unlike other mining towns, many families resided in Garnet.
The Nancy Hanks Mine played a significant role in the town’s success. In 1896, the mine produced $690,000, and the boom continued throughout the 1890s as mining companies rolled into Garnet. During these years, the town enjoyed a vibrant social life, with dances, parties, picnics, and fishing trips for its residents.
The Decline and Abandonment
Unfortunately, the prosperity of Garnet Montana Ghost Town was short-lived. By 1905, the gold in Garnet had run out, and most of the mines were abandoned. The population dwindled to as few as 150 people.
In 1912, a fire destroyed half the town and was never rebuilt. Employment opportunities presented by World War I lured the remaining residents away, and the town was eventually abandoned.
Preservation and Restoration
In 1970, preservation efforts began to restore and protect Garnet Montana Ghost Town. Today, the site is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the non-profit Garnet Preservation Association.
Over 30 buildings have been preserved, including a log and frame cabin, a store, a saloon, and the remains of the J. K. Wells Hotel. There are also several miners’ cabins still standing.
Visiting Garnet Montana Ghost Town
Garnet Montana Ghost Town is a popular tourist attraction today, drawing in thousands of visitors each year. The town is open to visitors all year, and there are several activities and attractions to enjoy during your visit. Here are some of the highlights.
Exploring the Town
Garnet Montana Ghost Town visitors can explore the historic site through self-guided trails and interpretive signs. Wander through the preserved buildings and imagine life during the town’s heyday. Some of the most notable structures include the J.R. Wells Hotel, Dahl’s Saloon, Kelly’s Bar, and the F.A. Davey’s Store.
Upon arrival, be sure to stop by the Visitor Center to learn more about the town’s history and pick up maps, books, cards, and other memorabilia. The Visitor Center also offers information about the best times to visit and any special events happening in the area.
Accommodations and Amenities
While the town is open to visitors all year, the road to Garnet is closed to wheeled vehicles from January 1st to April 30th. Garnet is a popular snowmobile and cross-country ski destination during the winter months. Winter cabin rentals are available for those looking to spend a night or two in this historic town. Leashed pets are permitted in Garnet Montana Ghost Town.
The Garnet Preservation Association hosts Garnet Day, a celebration held on the third Saturday of each year. This event includes various activities, demonstrations, and opportunities to learn more about the town’s history. Garnet’s oldest living member, Mary Jane Adams Morin, is known to visit the town every year.
Garnet Montana Ghost Town has a reputation for being haunted. Caretakers and visitors have reported hearing unexplained footsteps, doors shutting, and even music and laughter coming from some of the buildings, particularly Kelly’s Saloon. These mysterious occurrences only add to the allure and mystique of this fascinating ghost town.
How to Get to Garnet Montana Ghost Town
Garnet Montana Ghost Town is accessible by car, and there are two main routes to reach the site.
From the West
Take I-90 east to Exit 109, the Bonner Exit. Continue on Highway 200 east for 23 miles. Shortly after the 22-mile marker, turn south at the sign for Garnet Ghost Town. The parking lot is 11 miles up the gravel road.
From the East
Take I-90 west to Exit 154 for Drummond and follow the Frontage Road from the west end of Drummond for approximately 10 miles to the Bear Gulch Road. Turn onto Bear Gulch road at the sign for Garnet. Proceed 11 miles up the gravel road.
Please note that the gravel road is not recommended for trailers or motorhomes.
Garnet Montana Ghost Town is an extraordinary destination for history buffs, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone looking to experience a unique and captivating piece of American history. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Montana’s mountains and forests, this well-preserved ghost town offers a fascinating glimpse into the past and is a must-visit attraction.
So gather your friends and family and plan a trip to Garnet Montana Ghost Town to step back in time and explore the rich history of the American West.