Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns
Abandonned mining towns are common place in Southwest Montana. Ghost towns and rementants of mining and smelting activities stand empty, crumbling as the elements wear them into the ground.
An intersting site to see is the Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns just 11 miles outside Melrose, Montana. Here, the Hecla Mining Company turns trees into charcoal to fuel the smelter in the nearby mining town of Glendale.
Charcoal Kilns along Canyon Creek Road
Montana History Lesson
Twenty-three brick-domes charcoal kilns were built on the site to turn trees from the surrounding hillsides into charcoal. The kilns operating from 1884 to 1900 providing charcoal to the smelter in Glendale which extracted silver and lead from ore mined in Helca, MT. In this time, more than $20,000,000 worth of silver and lead were produced.
In 1895, 1.2 million bussels of charcoal was produced here to smelt 40,000 tons of ore. This required 27,000 cords of wood which is equivalent to nearly 3 square miles of lodgepole pine forest.
Viewing a Restored Charcoal Kiln
Video of the Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns
The site features numerous interpretive signs. Part of the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest, the site has walking paths for exploring the kilns, inside and out. There are pit toilets, but otherwise, no services.
The three white-washed kilns were restored in 1990 by Forest Service personnel and volunteers. The remaining kilns are left to the elements.
Weather and Elements Take Their Toll
Remains of the Glendale Smelter
From Melrose, Montana, turn onto Trapper Creek Road. The road is only paved as far as the Salmonfly Fishing Access. It quickly becomes a good gravel road. Follow the road for 5.5 miles. Next, turn right and follow Canyon Creek Road for 5.6 miles.
The drive will take you through the ghost town of Glendale before arriving at the kilns. The ruins of the 40 foot smelter can bee seen as you drive by.
The drive to the kilns from the ranch makes for an easy day trip. Bring a lunch, water, and sunscreen. There is a primitive campground just past the kilns; a perfect setting for a picnic lunch. The small, tumbling canyon creek rushes by and has native cutthroats in its deeper pools.
Walking Path Through The Kilns
Road Signs to Glendale