The Missoula mining district is located in Missoula County north and northeast of the city of Missoula. The main drainages in the district are Rattlesnake Creek, Grant Creek and O'Keefe Creek. Production from the few mines in the district was low, if it occurred at all.

Between Missoula and Frenchtown lies the Missoula Valley, a broad structural basin formed during the crustal movements that created the Rocky Mountains. The glacially carved Rattlesnake Mountains north of the Missoula Valley contain complexly folded Belt rocks that are broken along several large faults. Ice age glaciers carved the higher peaks (Alt and Hyndman 1986).

The surficial geology of the area was created by Glacial Lake Missoula about 15,000 years ago. The entire flow of the Clark Fork River backed up behind an ice dam, and the glacial lake reached an elevation of about 4350 feet. When the ice dam failed, Glacial Lake Missoula emptied through the Clark Fork Valley in just a few days, releasing the greatest flood of known geologic record. This process occurred repeatedly, each time resulting in colossal floods. Exposed bedrock and sedimentary deposits provide evidence of the lake in the Missoula Valley, as do layers of lake bed deposits alternating with river sediments exposed just west of Missoula (Alt and Hyndman 1986).

In 1860 Frank Worden and Christopher Higgins packed merchandise over the new Mullan Road from Walla Walla to the Missoula Valley. They built a trading post in the valley, and their store became the center of a small settlement known as Hell Gate or Hell Gate Ronde. The discovery of gold on Wild Horse Creek in British Columbia and the rush to Alder Gulch provided a stream of customers for the business. By 1865 the partners had built a sawmill, a grist mill, and a warehouse four miles east of Hell Gate. A village grew up in that area and became known as Missoula Mills, later Missoula. Missoula served as the trade center for a large region for many years. The mining development of western Montana was made possible by the Mullan Road, built 1859-62, which connected Fort Benton and Walla Walla. The Mullan Road and the building of the Jocko Agency brought a large number of men into the country. The agricultural development of the Missoula valley was helped by the placer gold mining camps in the 1860s in Montana and in Idaho. The most direct influence on the Missoula area was from the mines at Cedar Creek. The 1860s stampede lasted until the end of the 1870s (Leeson 1885; Coon 1926; Wolle 1963).

The Missoula area was prospected but there are no reported producing mines.


No discussion of the boundaries of the Missoula district has been found in the historical literature. Figure 1 shows the Missoula mining district as defined by the AMRB (1994).



The Holliday claim was located in Section 22, T14N, R19W, about five miles due north of Missoula on the divide east of Grant Creek. The claim was developed by a few shallow pits and trenches. The country rock is Belt argillite, and the vein consisted of quartz with some galena. A select sample assayed a trace of gold, an ounce of silver, 4.7 percent lead, and 1.1 percent zinc (Sahinen 1957).

Paying Teller

The Paying Teller mine was located three miles from Missoula on the east side of Rattlesnake Creek. The ledge was reported in 1894 to carry copper sulfides, copper carbonates, galena, and free gold. At that time there was a tunnel, two lateral drifts, and a shaft in the floor of the tunnel (Miller 1894).


Alt, David, and Donald W. Hyndman


Roadside Geology of Montana

. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company.

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

Coon, Shirley Jay

1926 "The Economic Development of Missoula, Montana", University of Chicago Ph. D. thesis.

Leeson, Michael A., ed.


History of Montana, 1739-1885

. Warner, Beers & Co., Chicago.

Miller, Joaquin


An Illustrated History of the State of Montana

. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company.

Sahinen, Uuno M.

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)", BLM, Butte.

Wolle, Muriel Sibell


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

. Denver: Sage Books.