Cooke City & Silver Gate, Montana

Combined Population: 150 (winter), 300 (summer) Cooke City was settled in 1870 by miners soon after gold was found. The area was first called the New World Mining District and the town, Shoo-Fly, but the name was soon changed to honor the banker and railway magnate, Jay Cooke, Jr. who had promised to bring a railroad to the area. The mining boom peaked in the 1880s, when hundreds of mining claims were recorded in the New World District and the population exceeded 1000. Hopes for a railroad faded, and most mining claims were abandoned, but deposits of gold, copper, lead, silver, chromium, and zinc remain in these mountains. A huge gold mine was proposed near here in the 1990s by a Canadian mining company. After considerable national outcry over the damage Yellowstone could suffer from mine tailings and other impacts, development was averted at least for a time by a land exchange and the withdrawal of the area from mining claims.

Mineral Mountain (10,531 ft/3210 m) is seen northwest of Cooke City, and Republic Mountain (10,170 ft/3100 m) rises to the south. Inquire locally or see the Forest Service maps for four-wheel drive roads and trails in the area. An all-day hike or horseback trip can be made to a famous spot about 12 miles (19 km) above Cooke City to the north: Grasshopper Glacier, where grasshoppers were frozen into the ice about 300 years ago. Though it’s not the only such glacier in the Beartooth, this is the one that’s been known and photographed since the 1890s. There are no glaciers at all inside Yellowstone Park today. Silver Gate, the smaller and newer town 3 miles (5 km) from Cooke City, was founded in the 1930s. The architectural standards for the town site require log construction and rustic architecture.

On the hillsides to the north, you can see how the Storm Creek fire seriously threatened Silver Gate and Cooke City in 1988. The fierce Clover-Mist fire to the south also dropped burning embers in the area. A backfire was set, destroying four buildings when it raged out of control, but in the end, both communities were spared serious damage. A sign along the road (later removed) was altered by a local wit to read Cooked City. There are several motels and a few restaurants in Cooke City and Silver Gate. The nearest park accommodations are about 30 miles (48 km) west in the Tower-Roosevelt area.

Cooke City & Silver Gate, Montana Photo Gallery

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