top of page

History Note - Week of July 30th

Big Timber Pioneer, July 30, 1936



Dreamy, quiescent old Cooke city, second oldest mining settlement in Montana, still beckons to the adventurer seeking the ease and affluence promised in stories of fabulous wealth to be found in the rock tortured buttes of the Beartooth mountains.

The days of bewhiskered prospectors leading a mangy burro up to the general merchandise store to load up a grubstake are now only folk lore. Another generation, wise in the use of the most modern machinery, are working out the claims. Where but a few years ago a car or a truck in the city were a novelty, wizardry of modern engineering has wound a labyrinth of one of the finest roadways on the continent into the secluded little village and on to Yellowstone park.

The grandeur of beetling gray crags, sheer precipices and perennial snowfields out of which nature has chiseled a masterpiece with the simple tools of frost, rain, snow, gravity and seasonal temperature changes, may from the standpoint of tourist trade prove to be of as much mercenary value as the gold, silver, lead and copper deposits.

Ascending from the floor of Rock creek canyon to the top of Line creek plateau with a maximum grade of 5 ½ percent, the now internationally famous Cooke City highway, which was officially opened last month, reaches from Red Lodge for a distance of 64 miles to the Yellowstone park border.

At Red Lodge one gets a vista of the scenic treasures that lie ahead. In the first 155 miles a rise of 1,900 feet has been covered and now the real climb to a height of 11,000 feet within a linear distance of nearly 12 miles begins.

Approaching the mountains from the north, one sees vast cathedral-like formations built of granite and shaped by glaciers, which bear a striking resemblance to the ruggedness of the Swiss Alps.

Near Twin lakes the Montana-Wyoming line is crossed and a large part of the Wyoming section of the road lies above timber lin. It is, however, far from being a featureless plateau, for here the vast panorama of spectacular mountain beauty unfolds and time’s record is read in the moraines, lakes and canyons that tell the story of vigorous glacial development.

Pink snow, one of the most unusual features of the drive, can be seen toward the west slope. Believed to be the only formation of its kind in the world the snow derives its cast fromt eh unusual fern and insect life.

Accidents on the highway are practically impossible. Although the road winds up 11,000 feet above sea level, around a precipitous mountainside, it rises by means of four large switchbacks, the curves of which are banked like those of a race track. In addition, there are 19 almost hairpin turns, which practically amount to switchbacks.

Poles at intervals along the highway show that at times during the winter-months snow has been more than 12 feet high.

Unlimited possibilities for a typically American vacation are found in the vast area of peaks, rushing torrents, cliffs and glaciers. Deep in the mountains, were only forest trails exist, big game, such as moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, antelope, bear, wolves, mountain lions and other wild animals, abound.

Surrounded by a group of mile-high spires, including Republic, Woody, Index, Pilot peaks and Grand and Sheep mountains, Cooke City is truly one of the last frontiers. But even here false front store buildings and picturesque sod roofed log cabins are giving way to filling stations and rustic through modern lodges.

Time is taking its toll of the men who made Cooke City history. From the reminiscences of those who do remain a wealth of historic and romantic stories could be compiled. Among these pioneers are Mr. and Mrs. John Allen, who are still proprietors of the Allen hotel, which Mr. Allen built in 1882.

The vicissitudes of long years of waiting to strike a mother lode have not dimmed their faith in Cooke. Mr. Allen, who brought the first team of horses into Cooke City, making the 100-mile trip from Bozeman in 17 days, is still justice of peace of the settlement. His attractive wife, who was formerly Caroline Martin Price, to whom he was married in March, 1883, is intensely interested in all new activities in Cooke.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
bottom of page