95. Deer Lodge, MT

Tuesday, August 4 and Weds, August 5, 2020

Short travel day today. I finally got a reservation in a RV park near Jackson Hole, WY/Grand Tetons/Yellowstone. I’ll be about 40 or so miles south but I reserved a spot for a week. I couldn’t find anything much closer much less for a chunk of time. But it starts August 14th so I’ve got 10 days to do 400 miles and now I’m slowing it down to ‘boat speed’.

I took an Interstate today. There were a number of construction slowdowns including 2 way traffic sections and even stoppage for a flagman. That together with a lengthy rest area stop for some lunch and some phone calls to confirm reservations played right into a slow trip.

I usually try my best to avoid Interstates but this area (and southern Utah) provide some nice scenery while driving.

Interstate, bounded by mountains, sharing the valley with the rail line and river. Where else can you see white water rafting alongside the freeway?


Took the Jeep for a drive of nearby towns. Of most interest were Anaconda, MT and Deer Lodge, MT.

This entire valley is lush and green
Nearing the town of Anaconda, a giant chimney arises on the mountainside. It’s the old Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack, completed in 1919. It is the tallest free-standing brick structure in the world at 585’ 1.5”. The inside diameter is 75 feet at the bottom, tapering to 60 feet at the top. In comparison, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall And could completely fit inside.
The near(er)by train and loading buildings are dwarfed by the “Big Stack” as it’s known. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company, briefly the 4th largest company in the world, built the smelter tower in 1881 and ceased operations in 1982. This is about as close as you can get to the tower – a missed tourism opportunity, Montana!

Deer Lodge is the location of the first Montana Territory Prison. Bands of outlaws and vigilantes roamed early MT territory leaving a path of destruction and death. The Old Montana Prison was established in 1871 and was active until 1979. It and associated museums are the tourism hun of this town.

My nephew was/is the architect of many prison facilities in Michigan. None, I’m guessing, look like this place.
So for the first time I entered a prison. This slab was the location for the 1896 red brick cell house which was badly damaged by an earthquake and torn down. The slab was poured then for a gymnasium and classroom. Those buildings were removed and reconstructed at the new prison 4 miles down the road.
Medical and dental facility
Administration central office. This desk interested me as a reminder of early in my career. To the left was the hand crank, key driven comptometer (calculating machine), in the middle a manual typewriter and to the right either an early dictaphone or roller type facsimile machine.

Connected to the prison self guided tour facility is the self guided Montana Auto Museum. Why they are connected is beyond me. It contains over 160 cars and conveyances from the 1880’s to the 1970’s. I really enjoyed walking through it.

Liked this area. Sharon’s first car was a ‘57 Chevy.
And this was one of the new cars we had. A ‘66 or’67 Olds 442 though in a lighter shade of green and without the hood scoops
And as a young teen, I coveted either one of these (Vespa) or a Lambretta. Wasn’t allowed to buy one😣😢
And this one! This is a ‘71 Corvette Stingray. We had a ‘72 Corvette Stingray LT1 convertible, though forest green. Also it was a bit different in that it had street legal racing slicks in the back and chrome headers and side pipes. The Kentwood Police Department was easy on me. What a great driving car.

Also located in Deer Lodge is the The Grant–Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, created in 1972, commemorating the Western cattle industry from its 1850s inception through recent times.  At 1600 plus acres, it is maintained as a working ranch by the National Park Service and is open for walking tours. A good portion, like the main ranch house, is currently pandemic closed. I was too tired walking to attempt the walking tour. Also dominating Main Street is the large fairgrounds and rodeo facility.

I am staying in a nice commercial campground named Indian Creek Campground. Well laid out and well kept.

Indian Creek entrance

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