Iconic America: Southwestern Montana’s small towns
Nobody ever confused Montana with New York City. The entire state’s population is a small fraction of the Big Apple’s. But spend a little time in one of Southwest Montana’s colorful small towns and you might never want to return to the noise of the city.
Located in the heart of the Madison Valley, framed by the towering Madison Range to the east and Gravelly Range to the west, lies the quaint community of Ennis. Well known as a hub of fly-fishing activity on the blue-ribbon trout water of the Madison River, Ennis is also a mecca for artists residing in southwest Montana. Wildlife and landscape painters, sculptors and photographers showcase their work at the Depot Gallery and the Hole In The Wall Gallery — where prices are just a fraction of what you’d find at galleries in Jackson Hole, Aspen or Park City. A giant iron sculpture of a fisherman greets you upon arrival into the tiny mountain town, and the shop windows are lined with high-quality western art of every variety.
A little farther north you’ll find Montana’s capital city of Helena. This politically charged burg rivals any other Montana city in scenic surroundings, a vibrant downtown and historic charm. Helena’s arts and culture scene is especially lively in the summer months. The Helena Symphony offers a summer concert event, “Under the Stars,” on the Carroll College campus, attracting a music-loving crowd from across the region. A tour of Reeder’s Alley and Last Chance Gulch provide a window into the tough lives of old-time gold miners and their families. For a more contemporary angle on area culture, the Holter Museum showcases national and local artists, and the Archie Bray Foundation attracts ceramic artists from around the world to practice their craft in the foundation’s old brick factory.
After you’ve had a chance to poke around the mansions of Helena and the art scene in Ennis, soak up some Wild West history in the historic old mining town of Butte. This former post of the mineral boom is bursting with history. Butte’s wild days can be relived through an Old Butte tour of an underground speakeasy and hidden sub-terrain barbershop (complete with secret rooms for consuming alcohol during prohibition). Tours of uptown Butte architecture open a window to the boom times of Butte, when grand hotels, massive banks and Victorian mansions lined the hilly streets.
Southwest Montana, formerly known as Gold West Country, is a large swath of mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and hearty communities smack dab in between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. Southwest Montana offers a sampling of all of Montana’s lightly-tread amenities, including mega-mountains, lunker trout, budding melting pots for art and culture in Butte and Helena, remote yet luxurious escapes, and a slice of the Wild West through the numerous and well-preserved ghost towns in its mineral-rich hills. http://goldwest.visitmt.com
Tags: Butte, Depot Gallery, Ennis, Helena, Hole in the Wall Gallery, Holter Museum