The World Museum of Mining, a Butte treasure

Visit the World Museum of Mining in the Orphan Girl Mine yard.

Much as its name suggests, Butte’s Orphan Girl Mine stands apart, on the western outskirts of the city. Despite this, the mine has always been a big feature in Butte life.

The Orphan Girl Mine at the World Museum of Mining. Photo credit Andy Austin.

Placer mining–searching the stream bed for minerals–had never been very successful in Butte, and it wasn’t until the 1870s that the area started to show some promise with the introduction of hardrock mining. The Orphan Girl, opened in 1875, was among the first generation of hardrock mines. Like those other early mines, the Orphan Girl was a silver mine, and, unlike some of the others, it never produced much copper. It did, however, continue to produce a steady stream of silver, and stayed in operation until the 1950s.

Today, the Orphan Girl complex is the home of the magnificent World Museum of Mining. The sprawling museum complex is a must-visit for anyone interested in learning more about mining in Butte. Much of the industrial equipment of the mine remains intact: visitors can see the hoist house, and the cages the miners rode into the mine, they can climb the 100 foot tall headframe and, best of all, can take a guided tour 100 feet into the mine itself.

Hell Roarin’ Gulch exhibit at the World Museum of Mining. Photo credit Andy Austin.

It’s important to make sure to give yourself plenty of time for the visit–in addition to the mine yard and equipment, the 22 acre open-air museum has over 50 exhibits, including 15 historic structures and a vast array of artifacts from Buttes heyday at the turn of the 20th century. These exhibits–named Hell Roarin’ Gulch–give a great introduction to the life and culture of Butte.

After visiting the World Museum of Mining, there are plenty of other historic sites you’ll want to check out to get a taste of life in Butte, including the Mai Wah Museum, the Dumas Brothel museum, and the Berkley Pit. And after checking out the original Orphan Girl, it’s worth checking out its namesake–Orphan Girl Bourbon Cream Liqueur from Headframe Spirits.