Helena is one of the Richest of the Montana Mining Towns
Montana has a rich and diverse variety of different minerals that have been mined in the state. There is copper, platinum, sapphires, and a wide array of different metals and gems that are mined here, but it was the discovery of gold that first brought men to this harsh climate in search of wealth.
Helena, Montana is one such place. It wasn’t the first discovery of gold in Montana, but it did become one of the largest.
The Rush to Helena
There were already gold miners in Western Montana before gold was discovered at Helena. A few years prior, some very rich discoveries had been made nearby at Grasshopper Creek at Bannack, and at Alder Gulch at Virginia City.
Placer miners were working the gravels in earnest, and thousands of men were seeking their fortunes in the rich gravels. When gold was discovered at Helena, many of the miners dropped everything and headed over to this new discovery in hopes of striking it rich.
The first gold was found at what became known as Last Chance Gulch, given this name because the miners who struck gold considered it their last chance before throwing in the towel and heading home after their unsuccessful attempts at Montana mining.
Their “last chance” turned out to be a huge success, as they actually discovered one of Montana’s largest gold deposits.
Last Chance Gulch Gold
Last Change Gulch is located just south of downtown Helena, at the confluence of Orofino Gulch and Grizzly Gulch.
More gold discoveries soon followed, and it wasn’t long after that gold was found all throughout what is now part of the Helena National Forest. Nearly every drainage south of Helena was producing gold, and miners continued to flood in from around the world to explore the rich Montana mining grounds.
Gold Underneath Downtown Helena
The old downtown Helena is right at the mouth of Last Chance Gulch. The town was built when times were good and they didn’t consider the fact that the location of downtown was right on top of some very rich gravel.
The mines south of Helena were rich, and mining continued for years and years. The town continued to grow with more buildings. Montana mining was in full swing.
As mining slowed, the town of Helena was already well established. Unlike many mining towns that became ghost towns after the gold was all gone, Helena continued to thrive and eventually became the capital city of Montana.
Of course the town itself is still there, and it sits right on top of some very rich gravels. Underneath the pavement of the streets in downtown Helena are some very rich gold-bearing gravel, hidden away and inaccessible now.
Gold Nuggets Underneath of Main Street
If the miners had the foresight, they would have been smart to move the location of town a few miles to the north so they could mine the area. But as it stands today, there is gold still buried underneath of town that is likely to stay there.
Occasionally you will hear stories about gold nuggets being found during construction or road repair projects in Helena. Whether or it’s true or just a tall-tale is for you to decide, but it’s not all that hard to believe considering the rich history of Helena.
Over $19 million dollars in gold was mined here in just 4 years following the gold rush, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to know that some more gold is being found today in the area! You just have to find a way to go down there and get it!
Next: Basin, Montana – Early Days in this Rich Gold Camp