The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center is about halfway along the almost 4,000-mile Lewis and Clark Expedition Route. It is also the largest museum dedicated to Expedition Interpretation. This Center provides an impressive menu of year-round activities and exhibits. At the River Camp living history area along the Missouri River, summer visitors are invited to join in demonstrations of daily life and native cultures. There's a great two-story realistic diorama of the portage around the Great Falls that includes five full-size figures and a 30-foot canoe.
For those who prefer their towns to be haunted by ghosts of yesteryear, you should be quite satisfied. In the mid-19th century, Bannack, fueled by gold found in Grasshopper Creek, was a rousing town of 3,000 residents and briefly, it was Montana's first territorial capital. Today, glamorously clad ladies are reported to have been seen walking the hallways of the Meade Hotel, while the cemetery contains the remains of vigilante victims who swung from the nearby gallows.
The jail was built during the summer of 1863 under the direction of the Sheriff, Henry Plummer. He had raised money by subscription for the construction. This has to be counted as the first public building in what is now Montana.
Virginia City was the birthplace of Montana and the cradle of much of the state's history. Though it may be best known as the rough-and-ready mining camp where vigilantes organized to rid the country of road agents and murderers, it is important to our history for many other reasons.
We noticed on our map that the Continental Divide runs north and south between Helena and Butte. The Continental Divide is like the ridge on your roof, where the water flows down and away from the ridge to the two sides of your house. It separates the watershed of the east from the west so that if you pour a glass of water on the East Side, it runs into the Atlantic Ocean and if you pour the water on the West Side, it runs to the Pacific Ocean.
The Continental Divide is west of Helena and goes south to east of Butte, but at Butte, it does a west and north hook, then over to Anaconda, then south like a well behaved Continental Divide should until it becomes the Idaho/Montana border. At that point it stays on the border and goes northeast, across the lower end of Yellowstone National Park. When Idaho and Montana became separate territories, the dividing line (the present state border) was believed to be the Continental Divide. Your map will show where the crazy Continental Divide really runs. North of Virginia City, the Continental Divide runs east and west, then circles around and finally, south of Virginia City, it runs east and west again. You will go over the top and down into Virginia City, Montana. What a treat!
The ghost town, Virginia City, Montana, is frozen in time. It is a remarkably well preserved old west Victorian gold mining town just 20 miles west of Yellowstone National Park (90 miles by road). When gold ran out, there was still some left so that homes and businesses were occupied, but there was not enough wealth to remodel the buildings. So it froze, and now represents the whole Victorian era. It is a true and original Old West. It is a gem, held within a rich area of natural beauty, recreation and history. Adjacent to Virginia City is Nevada City, filled with buildings and artifacts that will impress you. For many years Virginia City, Montana, was a Rebel town in Union territory.
Of course what would Virginia City be without a brewery? And right next door is the opera house!
In Old Town, we stopped off at Cousin's Candy Shop. The Virginia City shop has the original oak shelving and tin ceiling. Jars of the freshest candy are located in an old, covered chuck wagon. Cousin's is just a fun place to visit with the entire family. The day wouldn't be complete without a look at the Bale of Hay Saloon, an authentic Wild West Saloon complete with Montana's best microbrews.
Many of the buildings were left just the way they were. You could peek in the windows and see life as it was. It was like the whole town went to lunch and didn't come back
Where to Stay
Surrounded by the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest with high peaked mountains, Fish Creek House offers breathtaking views, great breakfast and a warm hospitality. Located in Whitehall on 40 acres, just 20 miles from historic Butte, this four-season inn offers endless outdoor adventure activities from hiking to horseback riding,
The newly remodeled inn was designed to reflect the rustic history that is Montana, while offering amenities that made us feel right at home. Fish Creek House offers two themed guestrooms with private baths. Each of the guestrooms features a different Montana theme in an upscale rustic decor – from the hand crafted log and pine furniture to the unique local art work that hangs on the walls. A full country breakfast is included.
Fish Creek House