2007 Coast 2 Coast travel blog

Butte and the Berkeley Pit viewed from I-90

the Berkeley Pit #1

the Berkeley Pit #2

a wall of slag

Butte septic pumper

Butte and the hills

Old Town and the mines

the Anaconda Stack

an unusual state park

melting pot #1

melting pot #2


site description

old photo of the stack and smelters

the wall representing the size of the inside of the top

angle point on the 93 foot base

Madolyn and the stack model

On Thursday, July 26th we continued northwest on I-90, stopping in Bozeman to do some shopping and ducking as five of the Blue Angles flew in tight formation over our heads. They were in town to do a show on the weekend and were out practicing - or advertising. Whatever it was, it was pretty effective and got our adreneline going.

We spent the night at an RV park in the little town of Cardwell, which is on the Lewis and Clark trail, then moved north again on I-90 headed for an RV park in Garrison where they have WiFi and we could finally get on line. To get there we had to go through Butte and what a surprise that turned out to be!

Butte, Montana is a town dominated by a single industry - mining. The city sits up against a hill, and that hill was once said to be 'The richest hill in America'

. It started with gold and silver, and then turned to copper which is still being mined there today. The hill was drilled with shaft after shaft from the 1800's to fairly modern times. Many go 4,000 feet or more and one is over a mile deep.

When the high grade ore ran out they started an open mine called the Berkeley Pit which opened up the whole face of the hill, clear across town

. Mining operations have moved to the hills east of town now, and are all terrace mines that strip the hill but don't create a pit

. Butte turned out to be a lively and colorful town with a fascinating history, and we can't wait to go back when we have more time and visit the museums and galleries of Old Town.

Then we discovered Anaconda.

The biggest of the mining operations was Anaconda and their biggest venture was at a town named for them a few miles up the road. We passed it on the way to Garrison, and we could see the huge stack towering over a hill in the distance

. We spent the next three nights in Garrison, catching up on our business and updating this trip journal, then we returned to Anaconda to see it on our way to Georgetown Lake where we camped on the 30th.

Previous to discovery of the commercial uses for electricity, copper was used mainly for jewelry and there wasn't a big demand for it, but with the electrification of the nation huge supplies of copper were needed and Butte prospered. At their Anaconda location, Anaconda ran a number of huge smelters, and the stack was built to handlle the flue gasses from all the smelters on the hill. It did this until copper prices fell and the company was forced to shut down.

A one company town suffers when their company shuts down, and Anaconda suffered when the mining and smelting stopped here. That was in the '80's and the town still hasn't recovered. There are a lot of houses that need repair, and a lot of old Bonneville and Monte Carlo muscle cars driving around with mottled paint jobs. The town is still a little depressed, but in spite of that it's not depressing. There's a spirit here - and that spirit brought people together to save the stack.

When the smelting stopped they tore down all the buildings and structures, and they were about to tear down the stack, but a local group organized to save it and they were so successful that today there is a Montana State Park devoted to it - the Anaconda Stack State Park


We visited the park and found it extremely interesting. They have the ususual artifacts, two huge melting pots from the smelter ovens

, but the real exhibit is the circular wall that represents the circumference of the 60 foot dimension of the inside of the top of the stack

, and another plaque on the ground at the entrance that shows where the outside of the 93 foot octagonal base would be in relation to it

. As you can see on the sign in picture 13 above

, the 585 foot stack is over half the height of Sears Tower in Chicago, and the entire Washington Monument could fit within it with room to spare.

In the last picture Madolyn is standing in front of the circular wall to give it scale

, and you can see how wide that top is, and see the stack in the distance behind her.

Leaving Anaconda we drove through the backstreets and saw the little houses and old stores, and I was reminded a lot of the coal mining country in Pennsylvania where I was born. We continued on and camped at Georgetown Lake for the night, in a beautiful National Forest campground. With our Golden Age Geezer Pass we get these half price and for $6.50 a night it's an incredible deal. Getting old does have it's perks!

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