Deer Lodge Valley is a meadowland surrounded on the
east and the west by mountain ranges. These foothills
contain isolated mineral deposits. In the 1850s Deer
Lodge was a trading and trapping center, and mountain
men and Indians frequented this land. Deer Lodge
earned its name by a sedimentary cone that built up,
almost 40 feet high. A thermal spring existed and
gave off large amounts of vapor. From a distance the
cone and vapor resembled an Indian lodge with smoke
coming out. Deer often came to the area for grazing;
therefore, it was named Deer Lodge. Here’s an
early mining town that didn’t die, but turned
to other pursuits. When the first strikes on Gold
Creek started the excitement during the 1860s this
camp was known as Cottonwood, LaBarge, and Spanish
Forks. Investors began building mills to extract the
silver and gold from the quartz. One such builder was
named William Andrews Clark, who became one of the
three richest men in Montana. During the 1880s the
mines became one of the world’s greatest copper
producers. W. A. Clark built his home in the 60s in
Deer Lodge at what is now 311 Clark Avenue.
In the 1850s Johnny Grant settled in the Deer Lodge
Valley and established what was to become one of the
largest ranching operations in the country. The
Northern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1883 and Deer
Lodge was the end of the line for immigrants heading
Relive history in Deer Lodge. This western town is
nestled in a broad valley between the Continental
Divide and the Flint Creek Mountain Range. More
museums and historical collections can be found here
than in any other town in the Northwest. In the
summer, a free, horse-drawn trolley will carry you
from site to site throughout the town. You’ll
enjoy restaurants, art galleries, antique shops, gift
shops and all the amenities in the historical
ambiance of Deer Lodge.
Visit the Old Montana Prison, selected as the
site for the Montana Territorial Prison. Built by
convict labor, it opened its doors in 1871 and was in
use until 1979. Guided and self-guided tours lead
visitors beyond the gray stone wall and towers
through the now unused prison with its four-tiered cell
block, gothic facade and huge prison yard. It remains
a favorite location. Deerlodge is also the site of the Montana Law Enforcement Museum.
The Montana Auto Museum is a unique museum with
interpretive exhibits and over 120 antique cars on
display, it’s a must-see that will take you
down memory lane. Vintage camping vehicles include a
very rare motor home built by Pierce Arrow in 1928.
Don't miss the Frontier Montana Museum, which has the best display of cowboy
collectibles between Cody and Calgary. See the guns,
spurs, chaps, reatas and all the rest. Then tour
Desert John’s Saloon, a unique whiskey
memorabilia collection. Powell County Museum, also has extansive collections, including guns, slot machines, and juke boxes.
Take a trip to Grant-Kohrs Ranch. Once the home of one of
Montana’s largest cattle barons, the ranch
remained in the original family’s hands until
the National Park Service took over the operation.
The original furnishings are in the house, the barns
are full of the horse-drawn equipment used in the
1800s. A uniquely well-preserved slice of western
history on the north end of Deer Lodge.
Enjoy picknicking, catch-and-release fishing, and wildlife viewing at Warm Springs Ponds.
Other activities and guided services for this area
include ranch vacations, visiting old mining camps, hiking,
hunting, fishing, golf, and snowmobiling.