Garnet, Montana - A Ghost Town Treasure
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Beavertail Hill State Park Campground in Clinton, Montana looked like a good option for a three night stay in our huge fifth-wheel. Because our rig is 60’ long and 13’6” high, researching potential campsites is imperative and we’ve learned that we cannot rely on written descriptions alone. This one was electric only, it said it accepted big rigs and it was located right on the wild and scenic Clark Fork River. I could see in satellite images that my biggest concern would be the potential for a few low hanging branches and the turn-around point was shaped like a very tight dirt round-about. What the heck you only live once we thought and we booked the site.
When we arrived at the campground entrance I parked and walked to our campsite. Yes there were low hanging branches but I figured I could weave my way from side to side and clear them. The dirt round-about was a bit more of a concern. It was a much smaller circle than I anticipated and it was sloped to a soft dirt base in the middle. The campground host was a friendly Texan with a can of bear spray hanging from his belt. “You can make the turn” he assured me. “But watch out for the Mama Bear and Cubs” he warned. We did make the turn but not before listing the fifth-wheel at an extreme angle and dragging the inside wheels through the loose dirt in the middle.
At Beavertail we once again rendezvoused with Tammy’s folks and brother for a night stopover on their way back to Colorado but once they left we were all alone again. It felt good to walk along the banks of the river where the foliage was beginning to morph into a blanket of autumn colors. There was scat with berries on the ground and fall in the air and I did my best to capture a shot or two while keeping a keen eye out over my shoulder for bears.
The highlight of our stay at Beavertail was visiting the well preserved ghost town of Garnet. As the crow flies it was only about a dozen miles from our campsite but we were well warned that taking a dually up that road might make your heart skip beats. We chose to double back to Missoula to get there which was roughly a 60 mile drive. Garnet flourished between 1895 and 1905 as gold mining town. In its heyday the town had four hotels, numerous stores and 13 saloons. Our entry fee of $3 each paid to the Bureau of Land Management included a well written narrative of the town’s history along with a walking map of the remaining structures and a synopsis of their past. We arrived at 4pm which gave us only 30 minutes to walk freely through inside of the hotel, bar and mercantile before the park ranger locked them up for the day. After that we had the entire ghost town to ourselves and we took our time going through a dozen or so cabins. If you are ever in the Missoula area be sure to take the time to visit Garnet. It is something special.