Ghost towns exist in every culture, but some of the most interesting ones are right here in Montana, not far from our Missoula lodging. We are fortunate that the Montana Department of Fish and Wildlife took over management of the dying town of Bannack and the surrounding area in the 1950s. Thanks to their foresight, Bannack State Park preserves an important part of the state’s history.
Prospector John White founded the town of Bannack in 1862 after discovering gold in Grasshopper Creek. Folks rushed to the area as news of the gold spread, hoping to secure their own claim. So many people came that Bannack was named the first Territorial Capital of Montana, although it held on to that title for only a year. Although the huge reserves of gold that folks hoped to find continued to elude the prospectors, a hardy few doggedly remained in the area, experimented with various mining techniques, and managed to make a living. In the 1930’s, however, the population began to steadily dwindle. Now a state park, Bannack today is visited by people from all over the country and the world. Over sixty structures remain standing, most of which can be explored. Spend a day exploring the old town, and get a taste for what it was like to come to this wild and beautiful place in the 1860s, with dreams of gold in the heart.
Come May, the park is open daily from 8am until dusk, and after Memorial Day the hours are extended until 9pm. The informative Visitor Center is open weekends. The park makes a great day trip from our Missoula Mt bed and breakfast – pack a picnic and have fun.