youtubeWelcome to part four of Montana’s Ghost Town Loop (article links can be found at end of this article) which brings us back to our starting point and completes the loop. This 70-mile loop tour in southwest Montana passes through scenic territory with plenty of camping options while visiting ghost towns and mining camps that helped establish the state. You will find it easy to social distance yourself from others and world events as you enjoy this loop. If you missed the last entry you can read it here. This week we will visit the very photogenic Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns, the ghosts of Vipond Park and the ghost town of Quartz Hill.

Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns

Furnaces in a smelting operation require large amounts of fuel to heat the ore in order to release the precious metal trapped within. The choice of fuel for the nearby Glendale smelter we visited in the last installment was charcoal. Charcoal is produced by burning cord wood under controlled conditions. In the early 1880's, twenty three brick kilns were constructed on Canyon Creek, about five miles from the Glendale smelter, where timber was abundant along with clay for making the bricks. These kilns employed scores of men, both to operate and to harvest the huge amounts of wood to keep them burning around the clock. A good wood cutter who could cut and deliver two cords of wood per day was paid $8 - 10 for his efforts. As wood was depleted in the immediate area around the kilns a wood chute was constructed up the steep hillside to the north to access the large plateau area above known as Vipond Park. If you look up the hillside from the kilns you can still spot the remains of the platform used to load the wood into the chute. The forest service has restored three of the kilns to their original appearance and installed interpretive signs. Click here to learn more about the kilns.

 
Interpretive Signs Tell the Story of the Kilns

Vipond Park

Vipond Park and the mining district that followed were named after the Vipond brothers who settled in the area in 1868. In April of that year, John Vipond filed the first mining claim in the area. His brothers soon joined in prospecting the area and discovered what would become the Gray Jockey mine the next year. During the ensuing years, the Gray Jockey mine and mill yielded 22,789 ounces of silver from 2,161 tons of ore taken from the mine. The remains of the Gray Jockey are one of the few mining ruins visible from the Quartz Hill Road which you will be traveling between Quartz Hill and the kilns.


Been Years Since a Vipond Miner Walked Through This Door

Other notable mining properties in the area that were discovered and mined in the late 1800’s include:

The Queen of the Hills Mine, which employed about 50 men to develop a producing gold mine and construct a 10-stamp mill at the site. In the early 1900’s, the mine and mill traded hands, more improvements were made, but little if any profitable ore was mined. The area around the Queen of the Hills contains the largest amount of ruins in the area.


Structure at the Queen of Hills Mine

The Old Faithful Mine was probably the largest producer in Vipond. It produced a total of 1,037 tons of ore, yielding 69,512 pounds of lead, 6,700 pounds of zinc, 2,582 pounds of copper, 1,576 ounces of silver and 268 ounces of gold. Judging by the newer ruins at the site, it looks like mining attempts occurred here until the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. Tableware still sits on the counters and canned goods are in the cupboards in one old cabin.

· The Keystone Mine contains a couple of old cabins located on a hill above several collapsed mine openings. I was unable to find any historical production data on the mine, but it appears it was mined in the 1880’s and again as late as the 1930’s.

Ghost town books and websites will make reference to Vipond as if a centralized town once existed. From my research and visiting the area, Vipond was never a town, but more of a settled area, so don’t expect to find a main street with abandoned buildings lining the sides. What you will find are scattered ruins hidden off side roads in a very scenic forest setting.

With that said, those that desire to seek out the ghosts of Vipond Park should have a good map, GPS navigation, good wayfinding skills along with an appropriate vehicle for traveling old mining roads.


Cabin Overlooking Vipond Park

Coordinates of the mines listed above:

Gray Jockey: N45° 41.648 W112° 56.000

Queen of the Hills:
Multiple ruins below the mine: N45° 40.282 W112° 56.891
A large building with a nice view of Vipond Park: N45° 40.407 W112° 56.930 (Just north of here is an old log cabin with trees growing within it)
Mine adit: N45° 40.332 W112° 57.137
Mine shafts: N45° 40.402 W112° 57.271

Old Faithful Mine: N45° 41.536 W112° 56.835

Keystone Mine
Cabin: N45° 42.465 W112° 56.177
Another cabin: N45° 42.420 W112°56.231

Other ruins not mentioned above:
The remains of a cabin can be found at: N45° 40.555 W112° 54.809

Remains of two more cabins can be found at: N45° 40.695 W112° 54.754
These were probably housing and/or related to the wood cutting operations.

Quartz Hill

This is an easily reached ghost town via Quartz Hill road with a handful of standing structures and a photogenic mining head frame. Quartz Hill was featured in a previous post which you can view here.


Quartz Hill Main Street

Getting There                                                                                                                              

You have a choice on approaching / visiting all three sites as they are linked together by through roads from the towns of Wise River and Melrose with camping options at both ends of the route. The author chose to visit the charcoal kilns and Vipond Park from the Melrose side from his existing campsite near Glendale, while visiting Quartz Hill via the very well maintained gravel road from the Town of Wise River. Those with suitable RVs like a 4x4 class B van or pop up truck camper mounted on a four wheel drive truck might consider driving from end to end.

Here are the instructions for reaching the sites from the Melrose end of the route:

To reach the Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns: Turn right on Canyon Creek Road on the west "outskirts" of Glendale which we visited in the last entry.  Continue on Canyon Creek Road for about 5 miles, until you reach the kilns at: N45° 40.771  W112° 52.215

To reach Vipond Park from the kilns continue on Canyon Creek Road for just over 1.5 miles until you reach a junction with a hard right turn at: N45° 40.237 W112° 53.834  Take the right hand turn which will take you up a fairly steep one lane road to Vipond Park at the top.

To reach the ghost town of Quartz Hill from Vipond Park, continue on Quartz Hill Road through Vipond Park for approximately 8 miles.

Camping

See the last entry for areas to camp at the Melrose end of the route. Click on the previous Quartz Hill entry for areas to camp at the Wise River end of the route.

I hope you have enjoyed this loop trip though a portion of Montana’s historic mining areas and the many options to camp while social distancing yourself from others.


Montana Ghost Town Loop Series:

Part 1 - Coolidge

Part 2 - Barnack & Farlin

Part 3 - Glendale, Hecla, Lion City & Trapper City

Part 4 - Canyon Creek, Vipond Park

Quartz Hill

Dave Helgeson
Author: Dave HelgesonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Dave Helgeson is the MHRV Show Director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.

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