aka Potomac

The Coloma mining district is located in the northeastern corner of the Garnet Range at the headwaters of McGinnis Creek, a tributary of Elk Creek which flows north into the Blackfoot River. The mining camp known as Coloma was on the north side of the divide from the camp of Garnet which was at the headwaters of Bear Gulch, a tributary of the Clark Fork River. Between 1897 and 1916 the Coloma district production totaled approximately $250,000. In 1916 the only mine being developed was the Mammoth, by the Montana Gold Mines Company. The district produced again from 1918-1921 and 1932-1950 (Kauffman & Earll 1963).

The Coloma mining district is characterized by limestone and granodiorite rocks (continuous with similar bodies exposed at Garnet). The veins occupy fractures in the granodiorite and are locally very rich. The ore contains gold, and the sulphide material is composed of pyrite, chalcopyrite, and tetrahedrite with quartz. Most of the ore mined was oxidized gold ore carrying $20-100 per ton in gold (Sahinen 1935; Sahinen 1957; Kauffman & Earll 1963).

The first Euroamerican occupation of the Garnet Range resulted from the construction of the Mullan Road along the Clark Fork River and from the discovery of gold in Bear Gulch and Elk Creek in the 1860s. A prospecting party from Last Chance Gulch found gold on Elk Creek in June of 1865, and at about the same time discoveries were made on the other side of the divide on Bear Creek. This started one of the last large Montana gold rushes, to the Garnet Mountains. Within weeks, about 6,000 people moved into the Garnet Mountain mining districts. Mining camps such as Coloma, Reynolds City (near the head of Elk Creek), Yreka, Springtown, and Garnet were established on or near the Garnet Mountain divide. There was a daily stage between Bearmouth on the Clark Fork River and Coloma. During the 1880s there were 1,000 miners in Garnet and 4,000 miners between Beartown and Coloma. A decade later some of the best properties were consolidated. The Coloma area had two mills (10 and 20 stamps) and after crushing most of the ore was trucked out to Helena, Butte, or Anaconda to be treated. The lode deposits at Coloma were discovered in 1897.

During the latter part of the Nineteenth century, placer gold was prospected on McGinnnis Creek and Washoe Creek. More recently, the placer mines were only intermittently active, and production was low. The total value of the placer gold produced since discovery is likely more than $100,000 (Pardee 1918; Lyden 1948; Kauffman & Earll 1963; Wolle 1963; Schwab 1984; Sanders & Winn 1994).

In 1886, several mines were located in the Elk Creek sub-district on Elk Creek, two miles southeast of Garnet. These were worked sporadically and by 1917 or 1918 had produced approximately $250,000 in gold. The town of Coloma and the Coloma district was most active at the turn of the century, when the Mammoth and Comet mines were operating. An estimated $200,000 in gold was taken from the Mammoth property. Since then, though, the camp was virtually deserted (Pardee 1918; Sahinen 1935; Wolle 1963).

In 1916, the only important work was a tunnel that the Montana Gold Mines Company was driving half a mile north of Coloma. Although extensive work was done, and mills were installed on two mines, neither yielded a profit. Most of the gold was lost to the mill tailings. The Comet reportedly yielded a few thousand dollars, and the other mines, the Clemantha being the most important, shipped gold ore worth at least $40,000 to smelters (Pardee 1918).

In 1934, gold ore of smelting grade came from the Dandy, IXL, Mountain View, Arm & Hammer, Northern Star, Cato, and Bullion mines, in the Coloma and Elk Creek sub-district. The seven deep mines yielded 975 ounces gold; 628 ounces silver; and 1,700 pounds copper (Sahinen 1957).

The total metal production of the Coloma mining district between 1897 and 1960 was 17,456 ounces gold; 21,950 ounces silver; 13,503 pounds copper; 18,856 pounds lead; and 800 pounds zinc. Most of the production was from the Mammoth and Comet mines, the Mammoth by far the larger of the two. In more recent years a considerable amount came from the Dandy mine at the head of Elk Creek in the Elk Creek sub-district. Between 1904 and 1955, Missoula county mines produced 36,248 Troy ounces of gold; 139,356 Troy ounces of silver; 686,177 pounds of copper; 3,403,568 pounds of lead; and 155,266 pounds of zinc. The total value was $3,097,685 (Sahinen 1957; Kauffman & Earll 1963).

Between 1904 and 1945 the placer mines within the current boundaries of Missoula County produced slightly more than $425,000 in gold. Most of the gold was recovered from three districts: Nine Mile Creek and its tributaries, Elk Creek, and Coloma (Lyden 1948).


According to Sahinen (1935), Coloma was two miles northwest of Garnet and was located at the head of McGinnis Creek, a tributary of Elk Creek. In 1957 he described the district as lying on the "plateau-like crest of the Garnet Range. It comprises a small group of formerly active mines mostly in Sections. 28 and 33, T. 13 N., R. 14 W. The area is drained by McGinnis Creek and tributaries, flowing northeast into Elk Creek."

The Dandy mine, located at the head of Elk Creek, was "hardly in the Coloma district," according to Kauffman and Earll (1963). The Dandy mine was generally described in the historical literature as being in the Elk Creek district (Missoula County), although it was actually in Granite County. The Dandy is listed at various times in the Elk Creek district in Missoula County, the Coloma District in Powell County, and the Bear Gulch district in Powell County (WPA 1941).

Figure 1 shows the Coloma district as described by the AMRB (1994) and the two sections listed as the Coloma district as defined by Sahinen (1935). The Dandy and other mines at the head of Elk Creek are shown as the Elk Creek sub-district. Because of the variations in the historical literature regarding the mining districts in this area, the reader is also referred to the Elk Creek and Garnet district discussions to better understand the Coloma district mines.


Some of the mines listed below are in Granite County, south of Coloma, in the Elk Creek sub-district.


The Alabama was a placer mine located on the divide between Elk Creek in Missoula County and Deep Gulch in Granite County, in the upper part of Day Gulch in the Elk Creek sub-district. It produced some gold in 1915 but had not been extensively developed. The nearby Idaho vein shipped 100 tons of ore averaging $100 per ton in gold to smelters (Pardee 1918; Sahinen 1957).


The Arkansaw mine was located in Day Gulch in the Elk Creek sub-district .25 mile northwest of the Dandy. It was developed to a depth of 65 feet and assayed from $40-80 per ton of gold (Pardee 1918).

Arm and Hammer

In 1933 a small lot of gold ore of smelting grade was shipped from the Arm & Hammer property. Shipments were reported from the Arm and Hammer mine in 1934 and 1938 (Sahinen 1957).


Shipments were reported from the Bullion mine in 1934 (Sahinen 1957).


The Cato vein was located about 1,500 feet south of the Mammoth and was one of the first mines to be worked. There was production prior to 1918 and in 1934, 1937, and 1946. In 1946 the Cato mine produced 13 tons of gold ore (Pardee 1918; Sahinen 1957).


The Clemantha was located a few hundred feet north of the Mammoth mine. The vein yielded high-grade oxidized gold and silver ore similar to that from the Mammoth. The Clemantha reportedly yielded $30,000 in gold prior to 1916. By 1900 the mine had been developed by an inclined shaft 360 feet deep. Shipments were reported in 1938, 1939, and 1950 (Sahinen 1935; Sahinen 1957).

The Rambler and Valley veins lie near the Clemantha and also yielded high-grade oxidized gold and silver ore (Sahinen 1957).


The Comet mine (also known as the Olympiad) was located 3/4 of a mile north of Coloma, near the head of Bivins Gulch, a tributary of Elk Creek. It was developed about 1905 by the Quantock Mining & Milling Company and had a 15-ton Huntington mill on the property by that year. It yielded small amounts of gold, a few thousand dollars worth by 1935 (Pardee 1918; Sahinen 1935; Sahinen 1957; Wolle 1963).


The Dandy mine (also known as the Big Six) is located on Elk Creek in Section 12, T12N, R14W. Prior to 1916 it was operated by the Ohio Mining and Development Company. In 1915 the Dandy mine produced some siliceous gold ore and shipped some copper-silver ore to a smelter (in addition, some placer gold from Elk Creek properties was sold to storekeepers). A 40-ton amalgamation and concentration plant was built on the property in 1915. In 1916, considerable portions of the vein averaged about $30 per ton in gold. By 1918 three adits had been driven on the claim, with a total of about 3,000 feet underground. In 1922 the Dandy mine produced some gold ore, part of which was treated by amalgamation and part of which was shipped to a smelter. In 1923 the Gold Bond Mining Company treated gold ore by amalgamation and concentration, shipping the concentrate to East Helena. In 1933 the Big Six Mining Company shipped 500 tons of ore to Anaconda. Shipments of gold ore were made in 1934 and 1938. In 1939 gold ore from the mine was treated and also shipped direct to smelters. In 1940 some ore from the Dandy was treated in a 25-ton flotation mill. Crude gold ore was shipped from the mine in 1941. There is no definite record of any production since 1941. The Dandy mine reported activity in the years 1911- 12, 1915-17, 1922-23, 1943, 1935, and 1938-40 (Sahinen 1957; Pardee 1918; Rowe 1941; WPA 1940).

In the Dandy mine, the pyrite or iron oxides derived from it are more or less concentrated in a middle streak containing most of the gold. Most of the rich ore is limited to depths within 50 feet or so of the surface (Pardee 1918).


The Dixie group of claims lies east of Coloma near the head of a south tributary of McGinnis Creek, in the W1/2 of Section 33, T13N, R14W. A 275-foot adit developed the vein, which reportedly carried $100-$300 per ton in gold. The mine was active from 1937 through 1941 and perhaps later (Sahinen 1957).


The Haparanda mine was also known as the Aparanda. It was located in the E1/2 of Section 12, T12N, R14W on the slope west of Elk Creek. The mine was opened in 1886 by B. A. C. Stone, who built a small mill and extracted about $10,000 in gold. By 1894 there was a 10-stamp gold mill on Elk Creek. No production was recorded since 1904. The formation at the mine is quartzite and schist, and the vein minerals are quartz and pyrite (or iron oxide derived from the pyrite) ( Pardee 1918; Sahinen 1957).

I.X. L.

Shipments were reported from the I. X. L. mine in 1934, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1943, and 1950 (Sahinen 1957; WPA 1940).


In 1944 the Josephine mine produced three tons of copper ore (Sahinen 1957).


The Mammoth mine had yielded $200,000 worth of gold by 1918. It was located at the mining town of Coloma. Between 1896 and 1899 the mine was developed by a shaft, levels, and stopes, and a 10-stamp mill was built about a mile west of the mine in Washoe Gulch. Most of the gold, however, remained in the tailings. The New York - Montana group of four claims was owned and operated by the New York - Montana Gold Mining Company, and their principal development was on the Mammoth claim. By 1906, the company had driven a 270-foot shaft, with over 2,000 feet of development. In 1916 a long adit-tunnel was being driven, but it was discontinued before reaching the Mammoth vein. The sulphide ore, composed of quartz, pyrite, and tetrahedrite, reportedly assayed from $20 to $30 a ton in gold on the 270-foot level. In 1940 and 1941 the Mammoth mine (and the East Mammoth) produced crude ore. In 1943 some gold ore was treated by amalgamation and yielded 132 ounces gold and 128 ounces silver, and crude gold was also shipped from the mine. In 1944 the mine produced 57 tons of gold ore, and in 1945 it shipped 44 tons of gold ore to East Helena. In 1946 the mine produced 16 ounces of gold and 10 ounces of silver. The next year the Mammoth and East Mammoth group produced 39 tons of ore containing gold, silver, and zinc. The Mammoth mine reported activity in the years 1905-06, 1917, 1929, 1935-36, and 1938-41, 1944-47,and 1950 (Sahinen 1935; Sahinen 1957; WPA 1940; Pardee 1918; Walsh 1906).


The Masculine mine was located in Day Gulch a quarter mile northwest of the Dandy, close to the Arkansaw mine. By 1916 the mine was developed by a short tunnel and shaft. The ore reportedly assayed from $20-40 per ton in gold (Pardee 1918).

Montana Gold Mines Company

By fall of 1916 the Montana Gold Mines Company had completed about 1,000 of tunnel from a point in Melhorn Gulch to crosscut the Mammoth and other veins that crop out at Coloma (Pardee 1918).

Mountain View

In 1938 the Mountain View mine produced 400 tons of gold ore that was treated by amalgamation and flotation. The mine shipped ore in 1934 and 1938. Gold ore from the mine was treated in a small mill in 1939 (Sahinen 1957).

Northern Star

Shipments were reported from the Northern Star mine in 1934, 1938, and 1939 (Sahinen 1957).

Ohio and Buckeye

The Ohio and Buckeye claims were located about 800 feet south of the Dandy. Samples from the vein reportedly assayed $2 or $3 per ton in gold (Pardee 1918).


The Pearl was a gold-bearing quartz vein that was uncovered early on by placer miners. It was located on the divide between Deep Creek and Bilk Gulch, and it reportedly once produced $20,000 in gold and copper ore (Wolle 1963).


In 1933 a small lot of gold ore of smelting grade was shipped from the Portia property. The Portia mine shipped gold ore to a smelter in 1939 (Sahinen 1957).


Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)

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

Byrne, John and Frank Hunter


Tenth Annual Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana for the Year ending November 30th, 1898

. Independent Publishing Company, Helena.

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Calderhead, J. H.

1898 "Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor, and Industry, 6th Annual Report."

Kauffman, Marvin E., and F. N. Earll

1963 "Geology of the Garnet-Bearmouth Area, Western Montana",

Memoir 39

, Montana School of Mines.

Lyden, Charles J.

1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana", Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology,

Memoir 26


Pardee, Joseph Thomas

1918 "Ore Deposits of the Northwestern Part of the Garnet Range, Montana",

U. S. Geological Survey

, Bull. 660, pp. 159-239;

(abst.) Washington Acad. Sci. Journal

, Vol. 8, p. 290.

Rowe, J. P.


Geography and Natural Resources of Montana

. Missoula: Montana State University, 1933 (revised 1941).

Sahinen, Uuno Mathias

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

1957 "Mines and Mineral Deposits, Missoula and Ravalli Counties, Montana", Bulletin 8, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology.

Sanders, Darrell, and Maureen Winn

1994 "Cultural Resource Inventory Report for the BLM-Plum Creek Land Exchange (Formerly BLM-Champion Land Exchange)." Prepared by the Bureau of Land Management.

Schwab, David

1984 "Results of a Cultural Resource Survey of the Lower McManus Creek Area, Elk Creek Mining District, Montana." Prepared for the Prince Mining Company.

Walsh, William and William Orem


Biennial Report of Inspector of Mines for 1905-1906

. Independent Publishing, Helena.

Wolle, Muriel Sibell


Montana Pay Dirt: A Guide to the Mining Camps of the Treasure State

. Denver: Sage Books.

Work Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey


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.