Montana – Part I – Big Skies and Ghost Towns

Bannack Saloon and Hotel, Bannack State Park, Montana

On to Dillon, Montana – Big Skies & a Ghost Town

From Arco , Idaho, (See post: Atomic Dreams in Arco, Idaho) we moved on to Dillon, Montana, for a five-night stay at the Countryside RV Park. Our route was now taking us through gorgeous, scenic lands – following winding river valleys, passing through rolling farmland with pastoral hay and wheat fields, and in the distance, vistas of sage and forest-covered foothills and snow speckled mountains, all under a dramatic summertime sky of scattered cumulus. It is easy to see why Montana is known as Big Sky Country.

Here is an overview map of our travels for this post:

Our Travel Itinerary - Montana I - 2017

Our Travel Itinerary – Montana I – 2017

We enjoyed our stay in the Dillon area. Dillon is an interesting small city with a rich history and many lovely historical buildings in the old town business district, as well as scattered around town. Dillon is also a campus town, home of the University of Montana Western.

Highlights of our stay include day-trips around Dillon and the surrounding area, several dinners at nostalgic Sparky’s Bar and Grill in Dillon, and visits to nearby Bannack State Park.

Bannack State Park / Ghost Town

Bannack is an amazingly well-preserved and restored gold mining ghost town. Gold mining in Bannack started in the 1860’s and moved from panning and sluice boxes to hydraulic mining, dredging, and finally, hard-rock mining. Eventually, like so many other mining towns, after several boom and bust cycles the ore deposits played out and price of extraction was no longer economically viable – by the 1950’s the town was largely abandoned and the State of Montana made Bannack a State Park. Like many other mining sites in the west, the gold extraction methods used at the Bannack mill have left a heavily contaminated toxic legacy.

Night Photography at Bannack State Park / Ghost Town

While visiting the town-site, I spoke with the park rangers about photographing the ghost town by night and was allowed access – an honor and a privilege! I returned several nights to photograph under brightly moonlit conditions – a magical experience. On the second night, a thunderstorm passed through at sunset – the rising moon and fast-moving skies made for dramatic compositions. This site is a dream for night photography – I would love to photograph here again, sometime soon! 

Here some of the night photos from Bannack (Tip: Cue the music video below and then view the pics):

On to Missoula, Montana – Yogi Bear & Ghost Towns

From Dillon, we moved on to Missoula, Montana, a spectacular drive, with lovely views of forested mountains and rushing rivers. At Missoula we stayed for seven nights at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park, a nice, family friendly park on the outskirts of town. We enjoyed our stay at Jellystone and enjoyed seeing Yogi Bear riding around the park each evening. (We wonder though, how many kids even know who Yogi Bear is, anymore?)

Highlights of our stay included scenic drives around the area and a visit to Garnet Ghost Town State Park. Garnet is another gold mining ghost town with many well-preserved and restored buildings at the town-site. We enjoyed seeing the many streams and rivers in the area, including the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers – this area truly is a dream for fishing, kayaking, and river rafting.

Night Photography at Garnet Ghost Town & Abandoned Potomac Ranch

I found several good subjects for night photography while in the Missoula area – one night I photographed an abandoned ranch near Potomac, Montana, and returned the next night to photograph in Garnet ghost town. Both of these are amazing locations for night photography – I would love to return, sometime soon. Here are some of the night photos:

That’s all for now. Safe travels and enjoy the journey!

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Bonus: Mood Music – Ghost Riders in the Sky by Concrete Blonde

Here’s a little mood music for the ghost town photos – one of my favorite Ghost Riders in the Sky compositions by Concrete Blonde – haunting, ethereal & eerie – cue the music and enjoy the photos:


2 thoughts on “Montana – Part I – Big Skies and Ghost Towns

  1. Wonderful images all, I especially like the night shots at
    Bannock state park, magnificent! Fantastic in both color
    and toned b/w versions.

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