Latitude / Longitude:
47° 25′ 8.4 N, 115° 36′ 7.2 W
Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)
Taft is a ghost town in the western United States in Mineral County, Montana. Located in the Bitterroot Range near the Idaho border along the route of the Mullan Road, it was a thriving railroad town c. 1908, named after William H. Taft (before he was elected president in 1908) after he visited the nameless town in 1907.
The town was founded when the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (“The Milwaukee Road”) built its Pacific Coast expansion and had to bore a 1.66-mile (2.67 km) tunnel through the mountains near its site. Tunnel #20 on the railroad, it is known as St. Paul Pass Tunnel or Taft Tunnel; its East Portal is two miles (3 km) southwest at approximately 4,150 feet (1,260 m) above sea level and heads southwest into Idaho.
Today on Interstate 90 the site is noted by exit 5, marked “Taft.” The area hosts a maintenance yard for the Montana Department of Transportation, access to the Route of the Hiawatha rail trail, and access to St. Regis (Sohon) / Mullan Pass vía Randolph Creek Road, which heads north and west from I-90.
Taft burned to the ground 108 years ago in 1910 on August 20, during “The Big Burn” – a wildfire fed by Palouser winds, and was not rebuilt. (see “The Big Burn” by Timothy Egan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2009.)