The Cherry Creek mining district lies on the eastern slope of the Gravelly Range and in the western foothills of the Madison River valley. Most of the mining activity within the district has occurred between Cherry Creek and Johnny Ridge. Cherry Creek flows northwest into the Madison River, which flows along the eastern boundary of the mining district. A road follows Johnny Ridge and is a primary access road from the Madison River Valley to the Gravelly Ridge Road. Cherry Creek is a year-round stream, but Johnny Gulch is generally dry. Metalliferous deposits were discovered in the district early, but the district was never an important producer. A few lode and placer mines were worked in the 1870s, deposits of manganese oxide were opened during World War I, and, most recently, a talc deposit was developed (Sahinen 1935; Perry 1948).

Along the Madison River Valley, metamorphic rocks are buried beneath alluvial and lake deposits but in the Gravelly Range they are exposed in places. The metamorphic rocks known as the Cherry Creek Series consist of light- and dark-gray gneisses, mica schists and phyllites, schistose quartzites, and dolomitic marbles. The beds of the Cherry Creek Series have been closely compressed by folding. Most authors agree that the rocks of the Cherry Creek Series have sedimentary origin and were probably formed by the recrystallization of materials present in the sedimentary rocks with the addition of little or no new material (Perry 1948; Thomas 1928).

The area lying between Cherry Creek and Johnny Gulch is underlain by a limestone. Rocks of the Cherry Creek Series are unconformably overlain by the Paleozoic rocks at the head of the creek. Manganese oxides also occur sparingly as streaks and small masses, and there are some small aggregates of quartz grains and flakes of colorless mica. At the Dodge, Dougan, and Grove claims south of Cherry Creek, a sample of limestone yielded by analysis 0.47 percent manganese, 1.28 percent iron, and 2.86 percent insoluble matter. The limestone is replaced by gneiss and schist on the east and by Flathead quartzite on the west (Sahinen 1935; Pardee 1918; Tompson 1959; Thomas 1928).

Talc Deposits

Commercial deposits of talc lie between Johnny Gulch and Cherry Creek in an area about 5 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. The talc deposits occur as isolated bodies in relatively pure marble. The Johnny Gulch deposits were discovered by Lewis (or Louis) Clark on his homestead shortly after 1900 and were later opened by shallow pits. In 1942 the Mountain Talc Mines obtained a lease and dug larger pits and drove adits into talc exposures, with help from the U.S. Bureau of Mines. War-time demand for "lava grade" talc led to rapid development; in 1943 and 1944, 127 tons were shipped. Ceramic talc was of lower value and therefore much less was shipped. Cosmetic talc was shipped depending on supply and market. A minor quantity of talc located about 1.5 miles north of Morgan Gulch was developed by the Tri-State Minerals Company and then abandoned because of low grade and lack of quantity. Pits, trenches, shafts, adits, and underground workings have been sunk into the larger deposits. The different grades of talc are classed as ceramic, cosmetic, and lava. In 1985 the Montana Talc Company began development work on the talc deposit in the Johnny Gulch area and constructed a mill to process the talc. The operation was owned by several major mining corporations, one being Cyprus Minerals. Cyprus reportedly was shipping more than 150,000 tons from the area per year in 1985 (Perry 1948; McNay 1985).

Manganese and Iron in the District

Manganese-containing ores in the Cherry Creek district are in two groups: in Gulch No. 1 and Gulch No. 4, and on the north side of the Black Point dolomite. The main minerals are manganite, psilomelane, and wad, plus hollandite. Deposits of kyanite and minor sillimanite are widespread in the Cherry Creek area (Heinrich and Rabbitt 1960).

Iron deposits occur in two areas: between Johnny Gulch and Ruby Creek, and in Gulches B and A. All are in the metamorphic unit of the Cherry Creek group known as the "iron formation." The most persistent band extends over two miles. The Ruby Creek mine was developed near the southwestern end of this band. The U. S. Steel Corporation explored the deposits in 1958 (Heinrich and Rabbitt 1960).

In 1918 several claims were being worked, including Lewis Clark's upper claim located on the slope north of Johnny Gulch and the Dodge, Dougan, and Grove claims on top of the hill south of Cherry Creek. In that year there were 8 to 10 pits, shafts, and tunnels in the area, none deeper than 40 feet, all dug on bodies of manganese ore. Most were developed along fissures or joints that had a general easterly course. Pardee estimated that less than 50 tons of high-grade ore and not more than 100 tons of low-grade ore were in the reserve, but it was believed that other ore bodies might be found between Cherry Creek and Johnny Gulch (Pardee 1918).

Placer Mining

In 1941 a dry-land dredge tested some ground on Ruby Creek and recovered 49 fine ounces of gold. Gold-bearing gravels were also found in Morgan Creek, the Elk River, Second Standard Creek, and Horse Creek. The gold was derived from glacier gravels and also from some small gold-bearing veins in the general area. Wigwam Creek also had deposits of gold-bearing glacier drift, as did its tributaries Buffalo and Arastra Creeks in Wigwam Basin and Buffalo Pass (Lyden 1948).


Pardee (1918) describes the deposits "near Cherry Creek" as those lying between Cherry Creek and Johnny Gulch. Dingman (1932) described the Cherry Creek district as 16 miles southeast of Virginia City. Figure 1 shows the district as defined by the AMRB (1994) for inventory purposes to include all the placer workings of the district. The smaller high-lighted area encompasses the talc and lode mining area essentially as described by Pardee (1918) but extended slightly south to include the Ruby Placers.


Johnny Gulch

The Johnny Gulch (also called Yellowstone) talc mine lies in section 4, T9S, R1W, and is one of two large bodies of talc in the Cherry Creek area (the other, much smaller deposit is located in section 5, T8S, R1W). The talc was formed by the replacement of marble, and it occurs in lenses. The deposit in Johnny Gulch consists of an aggregation of lenses, the larger ones being 30-50 ft wide and as much as 150 ft long. The color generally varies from white or gray to pale green or blue. The deposit was particularly important during World War II because it yielded the strategic material "block talc" or "lava talc," a cryptocrystalline variety of talc that could be machined. Ceramic and cosmetic talc were also produced by 1960. In 1951 the Sierra Talc and Clay Company of Los Angeles took over the deposit (Heinrich and Rabbitt 1960).

Ruby Basin Placer

The Ruby Basin gold-bearing placer was owned by Roger Kent of Varney, Montana, in 1935. Eight unpatented claims were located in the Ruby Basin of the Gravelly Range. In 1935 the owner was reportedly testing the ground (Gilbert 1935).


The Ruby Mine (site 24MA285) is located in section 9, T9S, R1W on a high ridge dividing Ruby Creek and Johnny Gulch. The Montana Coal and Iron Company started development of the mine in 1936 by driving adits into the hillside and establishing a mill and camp along Ruby Creek about a half mile to the west. The ore was hauled by wagon to a point above the mill, where a tramway then carried it down the hillside to the mill. Power was furnished to the mine and tramway by a diesel-powered generator located at the mill. While the mine was operating, about 60 people lived at the camp. Although the mine apparently produced significant values in gold, the ore had a high percentage of iron ore mixed with it and an economical means of separating the gold was never found. Sampling indicated that the gold content was very low, ranging from 35 - 70 cents per ton. Arsenopyrite was also present in the veins in very small amounts. The mine reportedly shut down after a little more than a year of operation. Some exploratory work was done in 1938 but no profitable veins of ore were found and the mine was then permanently abandoned (Anderson and Fredlund 1982; Heinrich and Rabbitt 1960).

In 1982, the remains at the mine included a hoist house, the adit entrance, a loading ramp and loading bin, a head frame over a shaft, and a collapsed outhouse. The mill complex was located approximately one kilometer southeast of the mine, and it consisted of the ruins of five frame cabins, the mill, and a loading frame (Anderson and Fredlund 1982).

Several other operations are listed as producing silver. The Eberhardt lode is first listed in the 1872 Mineral Resources. In 1873 and 1875 it is listed as producing silver. The Enselman lode was producing silver, sulphur, and antimony in 1872. In 1873 and 1875 Mineral Resources listed it as producing silver only (WPA 1941).


Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)

1994 Mining districts of Montana. Maps 1:100,000 and Map #94-NRIS-129. Compied and edited by Joel Chavez. Prepared by Montana State Library Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) for Montana Department of State Lands. Helena

Dingman, Oscar A.

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Fredlund, Lynn B. and Paul Anderson

1982 "Cultural Resource Inventory and Assessment: Cyprus-Yellowstone Mine Madison County, Montana", Prepared for Hydrometrics Inc. by Cultural Research Division, Mineral Research Center, Montana Tech Foundation, Butte.

Gilbert, F. C.

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Heinrich, E. William, and John C. Rabbitt

1960 Pre-Beltian Geology of the Cherry Creek and Ruby Mountains Areas, Southwestern Montana. Montana School of Mines, Memoir No. 38. Butte.

Lyden, Charles J.

1948 The Gold Placers of Montana, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Memoir no. 26.

Madison County History Association.

1976 Pioneer Trails and Trials: Madison County, 1863-1920. Blue Print & Letter Co. Great Falls.

McNay, John

1985 "Ennis Talc Mine Gears Up," Montana Standard, 26 May 1985.

Work Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey

1941 Montana Mine Index, An Alphabetical Index Arranged by Counties, Districts and Mines of Information on Montana Mines from 1867-1940. Montana School of Mines. Butte.

Pardee, Joseph Thomas

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1921 Deposits of Manganese Ore in Montana, Utah, Oregon and Washington. U. S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 715-J, pp 141-145.

Perry, Eugene S.

1948 Talc, Graphite, Vermiculte and Asbestos Deposits in Montana. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Memoir No. 27, Montana School of Mines. Butte.

Rowe, J. P.

1941 Geography and Natural Resources of Montana. Montana State University. Missoula.

Sahinen, Uuno Mathias

1935 Mining Districts of Montana. M. S. thesis, Montana School of Mines. Butte.

Thomas, Leonard C.

1928 The Cherry Creek Series of the Madison Valley of Southwestern Montana. M. S. thesis, State University of Iowa. Iowa City.

Tompson, Willard D.

1959 Geology of the Northern Part of the Cherry Creek Metamorphics, Madison Co., Montana. M. S. thesis, Montana State College. Bozeman.

Work Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey

1941 Montana Mine Index, An Alphabetical Index Arranged by Counties, Districts and Mines of Information on Montana Mines from 1867-1940. Montana School of Mines, Butte.