aka Dry Wolf

The Running Wolf district is located about 15 miles east of Neihart on the northeast slope of the Little Belt Mountain range. Mines in the district have yielded mostly silver and lead, along with some gold, iron, and manganese. Production has been relatively unimportant compared to other mining districts in the Little Belts.

There is little written on the history of the Running Wolf district. Its proximity to Hughesville and Yogo suggests, however, that miners from both districts explored the Running Wolf area while looking for new discoveries. Prospectors had conducted a fair amount of placering along Lyon Creek and had staked a number of placer claims along Iron Gulch by 1890. The gold found in these deposits came from oxidized portions of lodes found farther up in the drainages. The total production for all the placers in Judith Basin County probably never amounted to more than $5,000 (Lyden 1948; Robertson and Roby 1951).

Just as placering was insignificant in the Running Wolf district, lode mines failed to produce much either. Prospectors evidently fanned out through the rugged region in the late 1880's and 1890's, locating a number of silver-lead claims. Some of these were developed during the 1890's and produced small amounts of ore. The largest mine, the Woodhurst and Mortson, operated a small smelter on Running Wolf Creek to process ore from the mine. Oscar Helsing, a later miner, milled ore from his claims in a small gasoline powered gravity mill near Running Wolf Creek. The few other mines that produced enough ore to ship sent it to outside smelters (Weed 1900; Robertson and Roby 1951).

There is little information on district operations during the early twentieth century, although a few mines were worked sporadically during the 1920's and 1930's. Development on the iron deposits did not occur until the 1950s'. Important mines include the Woodhurst and Mortson, Yankee Girl, Sir Walter Scott, Mountainside, Christopher Columbus, Oscar Helsing claims, Hans Setter, M & M, Pierce-Higbee, and Running Wolf Iron claims. There is no record of total production for the district (Weed 1900; Robertson and Roby 1951; DeMunck 1956).

The geology of the Running Wolf district is similar to that of other districts in the region. Madison limestone from the Mississipian period underlies the area. Igneous intrusions take the form of dikes and sills of syenite, syenite porphyry, and diorite porphyry. A large syenite dike or sill runs northeasterly across the district. The contact zone between the limestone and igneous rocks contains most of the metallic mineral deposits (Robertson and Roby 1951; Sahinen 1935).

Woodward (1991) outlines five types of metallic deposits found in the Running Wolf and neighboring Yogo districts. These include "1) gold placers, 2) contact metasomatic replacements, 3) mantos in carbonate rocks, 4) disseminations in carbonate strata and perhaps in igneous rocks, and 5) veins."

The Running Wolf district is also known for its iron deposits. DeMunck (1956) investigated these deposits and found that they:

occur in the Madison limestone at the contact with intrusive porphyries of Tertiary age. They form tabular lenses controlled by local fracture systems adjacent to the intrusions. The deposits are not continuous along any particular contact but occur along the fractured portions. These deposits were formed by hydrothermal solutions rising along fractures and replacing the contiguous limestone with magnetite and specular hematite.


Robertson and Roby (1951) describe the Running Wolf district as including "that area on the northeastern slope of the Little Belt Mountains that is drained by Dry Wolf Creek, Running Wolf Creek, and Willow Creek." Figure 1 shows a boundary similar to Robertson and Roby (1951) as well as the large area defined as the Running Wolf district by the AMRB (1994).


Christopher Columbus (Christopher Colombo)

Charles Lehman located the Christopher Columbus mine in 1896 along the divide between the headwaters of Running Wolf and Dry Wolf creeks. Within a short time, the workings included a 75-foot shaft, 500-foot tunnel, and two crosscut levels. Crews eventually sank three shafts 80, 90, and 110 feet deep and extended the adit to 745 feet in length. The silver-lead ore occurred on either side of a minette dike that cut through limestone near a syenite porphyry contact. The mine shipped a few tons of ore around 1901, but there are no production records available (Weed 1900; Robertson and Roby 1951).

Hans Setter

The Hans Setter mine includes three unpatented claims on the South Fork of Running Wolf Creek, about one mile south of the Mountainside claim. Initial exploration of the mine included a few shallow shafts and adits near the surface of the ground. The claims were abandoned until about 1937 when Walter Lehman relocated them and removed 7 tons of ore from the mine dumps. There are no records of production. The silver-lead-zinc ore occurs in mantos or strata-bound deposits (Robertson and Roby 1951; Woodward 1991).

M & M

The 12 unpatented manganese claims of the M & M property were located about 1942 about 12 miles southwest of Stanford. An engineer from the Bureau of Mines examined the claims that year, finding only one deposit exposed. A sample from the M & M No. 1 claim assayed at 6.4 percent manganese and 22.12 percent iron. There was no production from the claims up to 1951 (Robertson and Roby 1951).

Mountainside and Last Chance

These two patented silver-lead claims are located about one mile west of the Woodhurst and Mortson mine, south of Running Wolf Creek. The Mountainside mine was operating in 1894 when people connected with the mine claimed that it had produced $30-$40,000 in ore, "paying" 'from the grass roots down.'" Two ore shipments assayed at 56 to 90 ounces of silver, 10 percent lead, and 20 percent zinc per ton. Operations during the twentieth century were quite sporadic. The mine reported production 1917-1918 and again in 1922 when operators shipped a small quantity of ore. It also operated for at least a short time during the 1930's, closing in 1937 when six men were employed. The mine workings include three adits totaling 1,300 feet in length. Robertson and Roby (1951) estimated that early operations produced nearly $50,000 in ore (Weed 1900; Sahinen 1935; WPA 1940; WPA 1941).

Oscar Helsing

Across the canyon of Running Wolf Creek from the Mountainside mine are several unpatented claims located by Oscar Helsing. He worked the mine with shallow shafts and several adits made near the surface of the land. Helsing built a small gravity mill, run by a gasoline engine, to process silver-lead ore from the mine (Robertson and Roby 1951).

Pierce-Higbee (Dry Wolf)

Three patented claims - the Dry Wolf, Gold Dust, and Anything - make up the Pierce-Higbee mine. It is located on the west slope of a ridge east of Lyon Gulch, about one-half mile above its junction with Dry Wolf Creek. Weed (1900) found the mine deserted and adits inaccessible when he visited the property in the late 1890's. Evidently the mine produced and shipped a small quantity of silver-lead ore, but there are no production records available (Weed 1900; Robertson and Roby 1951).

Sir Walter Scott and Mystery

The Sir Walter Scott mine showed good promise during the late 1890's when Weed visited the property. It is located on a spur of Steamboat Mountain, about one-and-a-half miles north of the Woodhurst and Mortson mine. Operators had located a vein of free milling silver ore, two to five feet in width, that assayed at 60-70 ounces of silver per ton. The mine had shipped about 100 tons of ore which brought in a profit of a few thousand dollars. The mine workings included a 300-foot long shaft, a 75-foot inclined shaft, a log shaft house, boarding house, blacksmith shop, and other structures. The mine evidently then lay dormant for many years. In 1948 the owner shipped 12 tons of ore taken from open cuts and recovered 253 ounces of silver, 102 pounds of copper, 164 pounds of lead, and 240 pounds of zinc. There are no other production records for the mine (Weed 1900; Robertson and Roby 1951).

Woodhurst and Mortson

The Woodhurst and Mortson mine was the most active and most developed of any in the Running Wolf district. The two claims, located about five miles above the canyon mouth on Running Wolf Creek, were patented in 1888. The following year the mine produced 500 tons of lead carbonate ore with 30 ounces of silver and 65 percent lead per ton. The ore was processed in a small smelter on Running Wolf Creek, just below the mine, but it is unclear how long the smelter operated. The mine workings included a 250 foot shaft and close to 4,000 feet in levels. The ore in the Woodhurst and Mortson mine is a silver-lead deposit formed by contact metasomatic replacement in the host rock of Madison limestone; the vein is two to seven feet in width. Total production is estimated at 15,000 ounces of silver and 650,000 pounds of lead (Weed 1900; Robertson and Roby 1951; Woodward 1991).

Yankee Girl

The Yankee Girl claim is located on a steep slope south of Running Wolf Creek, about 1,000 feet above the creek and about one mile above the forks. The claim was discovered in 1894, and extensive work by Mr. Leslie that year produced several tons of galena ore that had to be hauled down the steep trail in stone boats for eventual shipment to the smelter in Great Falls. The mine workings included a 100-foot inclined shaft, 200 feet of drifting, and shallow surface cuts. Lessees working the mine in 1921 shipped five carloads of ore. Work in 1932 yielded two tons of ore which averaged 16 ounces of silver, 44 percent lead, and 3.4 percent zinc per ton (Weed 1900; Robertson and Roby 1951).

Running Wolf Iron Deposits

A large deposit of hematite extends for six miles along the northeastern side of the Little Belt Mountains, following the contact zone between the intrusive porphyry and the host limestone. Forty-three patented claims now cover 540 acres of these deposits in Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, and 12, T14N, R10E; Sections 32 and 33, T15N, R10E; and Sections 6 and 7, T14N, R11E (Westgate 1921; Robertson and Roby 1951).

The iron deposits were recognized at an early date, and the first claims were made by 1887, with others following in later years. Weed (1900) examined parts of these deposits in the late 1890's and found little work had been done in the remote area; only surface cuts at the Woodhurst Iron Mine exposed a hematite deposit for nearly 40 feet. An analysis of ore taken in 1888 showed the iron content varied from 63.28 to 66.64 percent (Robertson and Roby 1951; Weed 1899; Weed 1900).

Activity evidently picked up in the next 20 years. When Westgate visited the area in August 1918, he found many of the claims opened with shafts and pits. One of the most developed of the claims, the Snowbird, had two shafts, 30 and 50 feet in depth, as well as an adit. The lens of ore in the mine increased from 25 feet in width at the surface to 32 feet in width at the base of the 50-foot shaft. Despite the extensive development work, there are no records of any shipments of ore from any of the claims. The USGS examined the deposits with trenches and drill holes in 1943 and found ore that was 58.75 percent iron. Young-Montana Co. took over the claims in 1955 and planned to develop the deposits (Weed 1900; Westgate 1921; Robertson and Roby 1951; DeMunck 1956).


Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)

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Woodward, Lee A.

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