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Signs of Butte

21 Signs of Butte

Often in my travels I wish I could see a destination as it was years before I’ve gotten there — that I had access to H.G. Wells’ Time Machine so I could select exactly when to drop into a city or town.  In the case of Butte, Montana, I would set that Time Machine for circa 1900.  What a grand city I’d find when I arrived!  One of the largest, most developed new cities of the American West, with beautiful lavish hotels, elegant restaurants, theaters and other attractions, Butte was the place to be!  Funded by the wealth harvested from the mines of the “Richest Hill on Earth”, Butte was booming.

Jump forward a century and what you find is quite different.  Most …

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Great Cars along the Road…. Butte, Montana

02 Butte Montana a

Butte, Montana, is a colorful town.   It was in its heyday about a century ago, and I would have loved to have visited it during that time.  Butte (pronounced B-yut) was one of the largest and most advanced cities in the western United States.

 

1955 Chevy Bel-Air, Butte, Montana

1955 Chevy Bel-Air, Butte, Montana

As the mines around Butte have progressively (but not completely) played out and closed, the town has lost lots of its people and much of its luster.  Still, while somewhat worn, it has charm.  As we drove around the streets, I found this beautiful classic car parked in front of buildings that were old when it was new.  Believe it’s a 1955 Chevy Bel-Air.  Not in perfect condition but it seemed to be well cared for and …

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Butte, Montana’s Hole in the Ground: A visit to the Berkeley Pit

21 Berkeley Pit Butte Montana.  Courtesy NASA

When most people think of Montana, images of mountains or “Big Sky country” or wildlife spring to mind.  Usually you don’t think of a massive hole in the ground, but a destination of interest is the Berkeley Pit, a now closed open-pit copper mine in the historic town of Butte.

By the end of the 19th century, mines around Butte had yielded a lot of gold, silver and copper, earning the town the nickname, “richest hill on earth”.  As electricity demand across America increased and more wiring was needed, the growing demand for copper made Butte a boom-town in the early 20th century.  Copper mining in Butte historically had required a complex network of underground drains and pumps to lower the …

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“Pic of the Week”, October 10, 2014: Pronghorn Antelope, Montana

03 pronghorn

Pronghorns live on the open plains of western North America, like Montana (where these photos were taken).  They’re the fastest animals in America and, on a global basis, only the cheetah is faster.  Pronghorns can sprint at speeds of more than 50 mph (86 kmph), and can travel for long distances at half that speed.  No predators can catch them when they hit their stride.

Pronghorns are quite small, only about three feet (one meter) tall at the shoulder.  They are reddish brown, with white stomachs and stripes on their throats.  They have backward-curving split horns that in mature animals form prongs (hence their name).  They can survive about a decade in the wild.

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National Bison Refuge

National Bison Refuge

The National Bison Refuge provides an excellent opportunity to see bison in their natural setting — the hilly grasslands of Montana. The Refuge is located just under an hour’s drive northwest of Missoula and is close to the road one drives from Missoula to Glacier National Park. The refuge includes a small visitor center, picnic area, limited hiking trails (walking in the refuge is regulated and mostly prohibited as the animals pose a danger to tourists), and a one way drive. The National Bison Refuge was established in 1908 and is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; there is a modest admission fee of $5.00.

Highlights of …

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Missoula — Home of Grizzlies

Missoula — Home of Grizzlies

While most Americans have no idea what’s inside the great state of Montana, I LOVE this state!  It’s breathtakingly beautiful, home to my favorite National Park, Glacier National Park, and is filled with (mostly) independent minded people I enjoy interacting with.  The state is varied and has several small interesting cities each with its unique charm;  the closest to these to my home is Missoula, located on the western fringe of the Rockies and centered on the lovely Clark Fork River.

Missoula’s history reads like that of many western towns.  Indians lived in the area for centuries.  White settlers came in increasing numbers after a trading post was built about 150 years ago and especially when the Northern Pacific Railroad passed through the town in 1883.   …

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Montana’s crown jewel — Glacier National Park

Montana’s crown jewel — Glacier National Park

Far away in northwestern Montana, hidden from view by clustering mountain peaks, lies an unmapped corner – the Crown of the Continent.”    George Bird Grinnell (1901)

It’s hard for someone who loves being in nature as much as I do to pick a favorite National Park.  There’s so many great ones from which to choose — the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Yosemite…you can see the dilemma.  My three favorite National Parks are Glacier, Yosemite and Yellowstone, two of which are in Montana.  While both Yosemite and Yellowstone are unique, my heart belongs to Glacier National Park.  I love the rugged majesty of Glacier!   I love it so much that I talked about the area with Chris Christenson of the Amateur Traveler podcast; if you want to hear that episode click …

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Rafting the Clark Fork River

Rafting the Clark Fork River

The Clark Fork is the dominant river in western Montana, curving its way through the flat-lands, mountains, hills and forests from its headwaters near the Continental Divide towards Lake Pend Oreille in the Idaho panhandle.  Named after William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) the river is a popular venue for recreation — rafting, floating in inner tubes, some canoeing and, of course, lots of fly fishing opportunities.  The river has good flow throughout the summer and moves at a good pace.  There are a few impressive rapids (Class III — with such ominous names as Boateater and Fang) that offer a thrilling bucking ride, but mostly the river moves along smoothly and you can lean back and enjoy the fresh clean air, beautiful …

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