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Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

 

Flash Flood Damages Bannack

Montana Historic Ghost Town

By Dorinda Troutman, RMR staff writer

Photos courtesy the Bannack Association

 

September 2013 issue  

 

Bannack was filled with mud, rocks and debris after the flash flood, which damaged about 80% of the town. The assay office, the oldest building in Bannack, was nearly completely destroyed. The building is to the left of two park employees surveying the damage. The large, brick Hotel Mead was relatively unscathed but many intact buildings had inches to feet of mud in them.

 

      A fast-moving summer storm brought a downburst of three-quarters of inch of rain and hail in a half hour, and created a three-foot deep flash flood full of rocks, trees, mud and debris which hit the popular Bannack Historic Ghost Town and Montana State Park the afternoon of July 16, 2013.

      The flood came down Hangman’s Gulch through the center of town and destroyed the assay office — carrying most of it down the main street hundreds of feet — and damaged about 80 percent of other buildings, roads, trails, bridges, boardwalks and the fire detection system.

      The assay office was one of the first buildings in Bannack — where miners had their gold analyzed, weighed and valued. Over the years, the building was also the Oliver Stage Station (see this month’s Historic Photo, pg. 33 ), and later a drug store and butcher shop.

      The flash flood came on with such swift force that it also carried away Christi Skelton of Corvallis , Montana , and seven children who had been visiting the town with a large family group.

 

The assay office is shown in these three photos: as it was before the flood, after the flood, and now being restored.

      Skelton, her four children, and three nieces and nephews each made a harrowing escape from the water and from being crushed by the collapsed assay office. They clung to sagebrush and fences until rescuers could save them from the raging, debris-filled waters.

      This was not the first flash flood to hit the town. The last was in 1977, at the same time of day, says Dale Carlson, Bannack State Park manager.

      The flash flood hit just days before “Bannack Days,” the park’s large annual celebration of Montana ’s first capital city. The event was canceled, and a fund-raiser, “Bannack Fair,” was held August 14 in nearby Dillon to help with restoration costs.

      Park Ranger Tom Lowe says that a reopening date has not been yet set due to safety concerns. A lot of people have volunteered to help, but a professional restoration company is working now, and volunteers are not yet needed.

      “Bannack’s been around for a long time and it will come back,” says Lowe. “As soon as its safe enough to open we will publish that widely to let people know.”

      For more information, visit www.bannack.org or “Bannack Association” on Facebook.

            To help with restoration costs, go to https://rally.org/rebuildbannack.

 

 

Copyright 2013 Rocky Mountain Rider. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Reproduction of any editorial material, artwork and photos is strictly forbidden without express written permission of the publisher. For information about reprint rights, please contact the editor; editor@rockymountainrider.com.

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