All of South West Montana has much to offer tourist. Butte Montana’s colorful history makes it a worthwhile visit. Once, in the 1900’s it was one of the largest cities west of the Mississippi due to its rich mining of Silver, gold and copper.
Colorful characters, underground speak-easy, brothel tours, underground mine tours and mining museums, the jail that housed Evel Knievel and variety of off-road motor and nonnotarized trails, are a few of the things to see and do in Butte.
We took the Butte Trolley Tour through historic Butte, daily from mid-May through September, originating from the Butte-Silver Bow Chamber of Commerce & Visitors center. Our driver/guide pointed out historic buildings, monuments, along the route while giving us background on the city and attractions. www.buttechamber.org
We drove passed the Copper King Mansion, built by Copper Baron William A. Clark. This lavish home was designated a National Historic place and is now a Bed & Breakfast. They also give tours of the mansion. www.thecopperkingmansion.com
Along the way we were able to view “Our Lady of the Rockies” a 90-foot statue of a lady in the likeness of Mary sits on the Continental Divide at 8,510 feet high. A 2.5 hours tour is available up to the statue www.ourladyoftherockies.net
We drove through historic downtown where the guide pointed out the buildings and their original uses. We pass by the Dumas Brothel, longest-operating brothel in the U.S. from 1890-1982. Tours of the inside are also offered. www.thedumasbrothel.com
This old mining town has noticeable remnants of its mining heritage all over town. And of the many cultures that meshed together here.
The highlight of the tour was our stop at the Berkeley pit. Once the largest truck-operated open pit copper mine in the United States. Now it is a 500 acre lake 1,800 feet deep, and continuing to rise. The highly contaminated water in the pit is a Federal Superfund Environmental Cleaning site. Critical levels are projected to be reached around 2023 and then treatment and pumping will begin. As of now there is a viewing stand built high enough to be deemed safe. Visitors enjoy a beautiful site. Depending on the sunlight you may see an array of colors red, yellow and bright green. This is the number one tourist attraction in Butte. I found the cave-like entrance intriguing. There is a small gift shop that seemed to have the perfect items for many of my fellow tourist on the trolley. Open May through September weather permitting. www.buttechamber.org
I did not get to take the unique underground city tour, even though I wanted to. It sounds fascinating. The Rookwood Speakeasy (1919-1930’s) is located beneath Main Street and the Rookwood Hotel. The History Channel says it is the most complete speakeasy west of Chicago. Artifacts found here date to the 1920’s. Included in the tour is the City Jail known as the “Butte Bastille” was built in the basement of the 1890 city hall. It was used until 1971. Butte home boy Evel Knievel was jailed there in 1956 for reckless driving of his motorcycle. www.butttetours.info
Besides all the historical features, Butte offer much in the way of outdoor recreation summer and winter. Visit www.buttecvb.com
All photo credits: Bobbie Green