Haunts of old are Vacation Gold

Lonely moans the wind of time, across an era of booming towns to empty haunts of frontier ruins, standing testament to the strength and pride of a pioneer nation and a treasured state. They are Montana’s many ghost towns. People hardly ever see ghosts in these forgotten villages, but you know they’re there because of the way the wind carries now-still voices through empty buildings, and the way the walk-boards creak when no one is standing over them.

These towns got their start as busy mining camps in the 1800s, a time when they bustled with people and activity. The prospectors and miners came first, soon followed by shop-keepers, who wanted to sell them wares, and bankers, who wanted to hold their money. Families, churches, and schools transformed the rough and dirty mining camps into flourishing communities. However, once the gold or silver was gone, the miners moved on. With a town’s synergy dispersed, the others departed for bigger places, leaving only memories to roam empty spaces.

Today the ghosts of days gone by and a few weathered buildings remain, but stepping into a ghost town is like traveling back in time. Montana’s famous ghost towns, such as Bannock, Virginia City and Garnet, are must-sees, but there are magical frontier lands to enchant vacationers within minutes of Lewistown. Among those rich with history and hand-me-down tales are Maiden, Gilt Edge, Kendall, Barker and Yogo Gulch. Plan a day to tour them all around a picnic lunch.

Kendall, located at the foot of the North Moccasin Mountains, is north of Lewistown off Highway 191, not far from Gilt Edge and Maiden. There are many ruins and visitors will want to look for the church and store foundations. Maiden is in the Judith Mountains where the first discoveries of gold were made. Gilt Edge is just across the range from Maiden. Drive 14 miles to the Gilt Edge Road, turn northwest and follow the road to the town site. Yogo Gulch is located southeast of Great Falls, near Windham, and south of Utica on Highway 87. It got its start in 1879 when a rumor spread telling of the discovery of gold in Yogo Creek. Barker is located in the Little Belt Mountains, 20 miles east of Monarch. There are still a few year-round residents, together with several vacation cottages. The remains include St. Joseph’s Co.’s mining buildings, which are on private property but can be visited.