We've put together a list of commonly asked questions about Bannack State Park. We hope
you'll find them helpful. If you still have some unanswered questions, submit
an online form. We would be happy
to answer them for you.
What caused people to come to Bannack to start the town?
John White discovered gold in Grasshopper Creek in 1862. Placer Deposits were
found in the creek and were very easy to work. Simple tools such as gold pans,
sluice boxes and rocker boxes were used. Hydraulic and Dredge mining also had a
place in mining history at Bannack. Word traveled fast and more people came.
How did Bannack get its name?
The little mining town was named for the Bannock Indians. It is believed that
the town received its change in spelling when the post office was established on
November 21, 1863. When the name was submitted to Washington D. C. the "O" was
inadvertently taken for an "A."
What is the elevation of Bannack?
The town is 5,780 feet above sea level.
Can we go into any of the buildings?
Yes! Go into any structure that is not locked (with the exception of the employees'
residences.) The locked buildings are the maintenance shop and storage
When did the last people leave Bannack?
The last resident left Bannack after all non-essential mining was prohibited at
the start of WWII. A few people continued to live here until the late 1970's when
the state acquired the last private in-holdings.
Was Henry Plummer sheriff of Virginia City as well as Bannack?
Yes, Plummer was elected sheriff of Bannack on May 24, 1863 and later that year,
his jurisdiction included Virginia City.
Where is Plummer buried?
After he was hanged on January 10, 1864, his corpse, along with Buck Stinson's,
was taken to an unfinished building where they were kept until burial. Plummer
was said to have been buried somewhere near the scaffold up the gulch. Most agree
that it is somewhere near the present gallows.
Where is Boot Hill?
The original Bannack Cemetery is about 100 yards up the hill to the east of the gallows
as one looks up Hangman's Gulch. The newer cemetery is located about 1.5 miles
west of Bannack and dates from the mid 1870's.
Where did Governor Sidney Edgerton live?
Governor Edgerton bought a building for $400 from Henry Plummer at a Sheriff's
auction. It is located across from the present Visitor's Center, where the large
cottonwood tree grows. The Edgerton family made the building into suitable living
quarters. It burned sometime in the late 1800's. Sometime in the early 1900's
the small log house with a sod roof, behind and to the left of the cottonwood tree,
was built from the logs salvaged from the original home.
How big was a mining claim?
The mining claim was one hundred feet up or down the creek and as far out on each
side as the pay dirt extended. You had to work your claim every day when water
was available. An absence of 3 days meant your claim could be jumped. If you
were sick, the claim was protected.
What was the peak population?
The population peaked at approximately 3,000 people in the spring of 1863 with
as many as 2,000 more people living down the creek.
Why was the territorial capitol moved to Virginia City?
On February 7, 1865, it was decided that the capitol should be moved to Virginia
City because much of the Bannack population had deserted the Grasshopper Diggings
and moved to richer placers at Alder Gulch. April 19, 1875 the capitol was moved
again to Helena were the title remains.
When did the state assume management of Bannack?
In 1954 the Beaverhead County Museum donated about one third of what is now Bannack
State park to the state to preserve the town. Through the years, the state has
acquired the present 1,600 acres and has exclusive ownership of the entire site.
Is the Parks Division planning to restore any more buildings?
Not at the present time. The aim of the Division is to keep Bannack a real ghost
town. Preservation is the philosophy, rather than restoring the buildings as if
they were new.
What is the past temperature ranges at Bannack?
Highs in the 90's are not uncommon, the week after Bannack Days it was 102 at the
assistant manager's house. In February of 1989 a record 62 degrees below zero
What happened to the many other buildings you see in the old photographs?
They burned down, fell down, or were torn down. The old Goodrich Hotel now resides
in Virginia City as the Fairweather Inn.
What kind of mining was done?
Placer miners used pans, sluice boxes, hydraulic nozzles and gold dredges. Hard
rock mining also occurred.
Are there camping facilities at Bannack?
Two campgrounds are located in the park just ¼ mile west of the town site.
Can we gold pan in Grasshopper creek?
We do not permit gold panning or metal detecting within state park boundaries,
but gold panning is offered as an activity during the summer months.
Are there really Ghosts at Bannack?
We have many people who have "experiences" while visiting Bannack. You will have
to come on out and see for yourself!