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Frequently Asked Questions 

How much is the entrance fee and when is it charged? 

The fee for Garnet is $3.00 per person for those 16 years old and older.  All federal passes are also accepted.  The fee is charged during the non-winter months when staff is on site.  You can visit Garnet after hours for no fee, but several of the key buildings will be locked at that time.
Are guided tours available?
Guided tours are available whenever BLM staff is on site.  Simply ask one of our park rangers for a guided tour.  Tours may also be arranged in advance by calling the BLM office in Missoula at 406-329-3914.
What caused people to come to Garnet to start the town?
When gold was discovered in Montana in the 1860s, prospectors also found gold in Bear Gulch.  They followed Bear Gulch to its source and concluded that the source of the gold, also called the “Mother Lode,” was somewhere in the area.  At that time miners lacked both the technology to go deep underground or to transport the gold ore to the smelters.  That all changed with the arrival of the railroad down along the Clark Fork River.  By 1898, the Garnet area had gone from a few prospectors to a booming town complete with stores, saloons, hotels, and even a school house.
When did Garnet become a ghost town? 

That depends on how you define a ghost town.  Garnet’s intial boom ended fairly quickly.  By 1912, many of the mines had played out, and a fire in the down town destroyed many of the businesses.  With the advent of World War I, most remaining residents left for better paying jobs in the defense industry.  There was also a second boom in Garnet during the Depression when out-of-work miners returned to Garnet to work over the old mines and find free housing in abandoned buildings. This boom played out with the advent of World War II.  In 1947, the last of the original residents, Frank Davey, died in Garnet.  Many people believe Garnet became a ghost town at that time.  However, several other occasional or part time residents came and went over the years.  Not until the early 1960s did the last few of these residents depart.

When did the BLM begin managing Garnet?
The BLM undertook the preservation of Garnet in 1972 with the donation to the BLM of the 20-acre mining claim that encompassed the bulk of the historic buildings. 
Why are none of the buildings restored to their condition of 100 years ago?
The BLM manages Garnet in a state of “arrested decay.”  This simply means that we are attempting to freeze the buildings in time in order to retain an authentic ghost town atmosphere.  We do not bring in buildings from other places to fill the town, and we make every attempt to retain every board in each building.  In that way, when you visit Garnet you can touch the authentic historic fabric that makes the old town an authentic ghost town. 

What kind of mining was done?

Before Garnet was a town the area was placer mined.  This is the type of mining  employed simple tools such as a shovel or gold pan and depended on water to wash the dirt away and retain the gold.  Once Garnet was a booming gold camp, the mining was mostly hard rock underground mining, although some placer mining persisted.  Hard rock mining required lots of equipment and skilled underground miners. These miners produced gold ore, which is gold imbedded in the rock.  It required processing at a mill to melt the gold out of the ore.

Where can we pan for gold? 

With gold are near record prices, all public lands that might contain gold have claims staked on them by miners.  That means the claimant has the exclusive right to mine for any gold that might be there.  At this time, we know of no areas that you might pan for gold without the prior permission of the claimant.

How did Garnet get its name?

The mining camp was originally named Mitchell, after Dr Mitchell, a prominent resident and mining investor. A couple of years later, when the town asked for a post office, it was learned that there was already a Mitchell, Montana.  The residents had to change the name and chose to name their community after the poor quality gem they encountered while mining.

What is the elevation of Garnet?

The town is 5,995 feet above sea level.


Last updated: 06-28-2012