Bannack State Park is located 26 miles southwest of Dillon, MT. - about 20 miles west of I-15 off Highway 270. The site is a ghost town of mostly wooden buildings of which a majority may be entered. Once hailed as capital of Montana Territory in 1863, its population slowly diminished as the gold mines played out. A self-guided tour is available from the visitor center in the form of a souvenir booklet ($2) which gives historical and other details. The site is open year round, at a modest charge, although the main season is May to October. In July each year, 'Bannack Days' is a special two-day celebration of life in a frontier town, with craft demonstrations, pioneer food, music and 'shoot-outs' Details on website www.bannack.org
We visited in late September and found the place almost deserted, which added to the atmosphere. Most of the buildings to visit are along the main street. Numbers etched in the wooden sidewalk refer to the self-guided trail booklet. The County Courthouse was built in brick in 1875 but after the county seat was established in Dillon, MT. the building was empty until becoming the Hotel Meade about 1890. It remained a hotel off and on until the 1940s. The other brick building from 1874 is the combined Masonic Lodge (upper floor) and Schoolhouse (lower floor). Both have been furnished with contemporary materials. The school operated until the early 1950s, whilst the Masonic lodge is still active from time to time. Wooden buildings include simple cabins and some quite elaborate constructions. In Skinners Saloon, there are informative displays about Henry Plummer and his Road Agents. All in all it is a fascinating place and fully justified a half-day visit.
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