Thursday, May 8, 2014

Butte - The Richest Hill on Earth

There was a short break in the weather so we headed further north toward Alaska.  We stopped in Butte and were happy to hear from Dan and Merlene who where close enough to join us for a couple of days. We all ended up staying an extra day to avoid more crazy mountain weather.  We had a fun time checking out the city while swapping travel stories. 
Our travels north continue to be practice for what we expect to encounter up north.  On I-15 in Idaho there were signs warning of frost heaves and, unfortunately, we also picked up a chip in the windshield from a passing truck.  Something that I had not realized I would have to do was add air to the tires because of the cooler temps.  I've done that a couple of time over the years, but had not thought about needing to do it for this summer of cool weather traveling.  There was a truck stop within a mile of the campground so we were able to get to the air without heating up the tires.
We inflated our new travel buddy, Alfie, that Mike and Sherri bought for us at the balloon fiesta.  As the driver of the CRV he gets a few stares traveling down the road.  Hope we don't have any issues getting him across the border.
Butte is famous for the huge amount of copper ore that was mined out of the Richest Hill on Earth.  There are fourteen old headframes that have been left standing throughout the city to honor its mining heritage.  The headframes had cables that took men and equipment in and out of the mine and brought the ore to the surface.  Some of the mines were nearly one mile deep.
In the mid 1950's as bigger equipment was developed it became more economical to get the ore out with an open pit mine.  For almost fifty years the Berkeley Pit got bigger and bigger.  It was over 1700 feet deep and three miles around when mining stopped in 2000.
When the pumps that kept the water out of the mine while they were working were turned off, it began to fill with water that is very acidic because of all the chemicals.  Other than some bacteria, nothing can survive in the water.
This map shows all the mines and the area the pit covered.  Many buildings that had been above the old mines had to be torn down as the pit expanded.
Looking from the Flats to the top of the hill.  If you click to enlarge the picture you can see several of the headframes located throughout the town.
This is the memorial to the 168 miners who died in the 1917 Granite Mountain/Speculator Fire.  Amazingly, 31 miners survived.  There are letters that trapped miner wrote to their loved ones when they realized they were not going to survive the fire.  Very chilling.  While this was the worst accident more than 2,500 miners died in Butte's mines over the years.
The memorial also celebrates the the many nationalities of the Butte miners.  There were miners from 25 countries working here.
Merlene, Dan and Nanc at the memorial.
The original headframe.  Each headframe has all the vital information, from years of operation, depth and, sadly, the number of miners who died there.
And, of course, with the mining a few mine owners got very rich.  This is the Copper King Mansion that was built by William A. Clark.
Merlene and Dan at Quarry Brewing.  Quarry Brewing and distiller Headframe Spirits served drinks but no food.  So we enjoyed a beverage and than checked out a couple of local restaurants.
There are many well preserved old buildings including several hotels, banks and other offices in the historic uptown area.  It really is like stepping back in time to the late 18 and early 1900's.
The old Metals Bank building is now home to a sports bar complete with the 16 ton vault that was built in York, PA and transported to Butte in the 1800's.  It took many horses and men two days to get it up the hill to the bank.
And after dinner we found the Party Palace that had a great rock and roll band.  As you can see a fun time was had by all.  It sure was great sharing stories and exploring with Dan and Merlene.  Great fun and good times in Butte, MT.

1 comment:

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Nice post about Butte, I actually like Butte as its a working mans town and those are my western favorites. Safe travels when you cross the border!