Although named for the “first item to be mined” (1), Garnet is known primarily as a gold placer mining town. The town has a similar history like Coloma. The first known mining activities occurred in the 1860s. By the 1890s, Garnet was a booming town with several businesses, including hotels and saloons. Garnet was unlike other Montanan ghost towns known for their “lawlessness, vigilantes, and extra-legal hangings” (2). As a union town, Garnet was populated by mostly miners who “demanded [that] entrepreneurs [had] access to industrial equipment” (ibid). Many of the miners also brought their families to live in the town.
Like her town neighbor, Coloma, the bust-and-boom cycles could not sustain the long-term growth of Garnet. By 1905, the town had 150 residents (down from about 1,000 residents only a few years before). A fire in 1912 destroyed part of Garnet and was never rebuilt. During the Great War many of the remaining town residents abandoned Garnet. Other than some brief mining activities during the Great Depression, Garnet has been a ghost town for the majority of the twentieth century.
Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Garnet Preservation Association arethe caretakers of the town, preserving the buildings and history of Garnet.
The best times to visit both Garnet and Coloma are in the summer and early fall. Although both places are open year-round, wheeled vehicle access to the ghost towns is from May 1st to December 31st. During the winter people can snowmobile or cross-country ski to Coloma and Garnet. While Coloma is free for visitors, Garnet has an entrance fee of $3.00 for anyone over 15 years old, and the town is opened daily from 10am to 5pm during the summer. There are guided tours provided at Garnet. The town also has the annual Garnet Day Festival in June. For more information about Coloma and Garnet, please contact the BLM Missoula Field Office and Garnet Preservation Association.
Recommended Websites and Information
Bureau of Land Management, Missoula Field Office
3255 Fort Missoula Road
Missoula, MT 59804
Garnet Preservation Association
453 Minnesota Ave
Missoula, Montana 59802