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Butte Travel Guide
Things to Do, Weather and Outdoor Recreation in Butte
Any trip to Butte should start with a simple stroll around downtown- known as "Uptown Butte.” Just park your car and start walking, exploring the wide variety of historic buildings. Downtwon Butte itself is tough to miss, just follow the signs. And, failing that, just get off the Interstate and take any roads that goes “uphill” – as all uphill roads seem to lead to Downtown Butte (known as "Uptown Butte") sooner or later.
Another good stop is to go over to the World Museum of Mining. The Museum, which charges an admission of $8 last time I checked, is a good place to learn about the mining activities in Butte. It also has hundreds of old mining artifacts.
The Mining Memorial is also an interesting spot to visit. This memorial, which can be difficult to find for some reason, is located in far Uptown Butte (in the small town of Walkerville). The memorial marks the death of more than 169 miners who were killed in the nation’s largest hard-rock mining disaster. On July 8, 1917, an accidental fire started in the Speculator Ore Mine – a mine more than two thousand feet below ground. 169 miners were burned to death, yet amazingly many groups of miners below the fire managed to work their way to safety. A visit to the memorial also provides good views of many of the abandoned mining rigs around town.
Butte does have a small mall for anyone interested in shopping. It’s located on Harrison Avenue just south of the Interstate - down in the "flats" part of town. The mall also has a small but ok movie theatre – which makes a good place to spend time in the event the weather turns cold and rainy (it happens even during the summer at times). The whole area around the mall also has all the other strip malls and businesses one would expect, such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart and fast food joints.
Butte also has a university. Montana Technical University is located in Butte, and is widely regarded as one of the best schools for training in the field of mining. The campus of MTU is also quite nice – and makes a rather sharp contrast to the nearby buildings just a few blocks away from campus.
The Weather in Butte
The weather in Butte, due to its high elevation and location along the Continental Divide, is highly variable. Butte is frequently one of the coldest spots in Montana – particularly at night when it is clear.
Yet, the Continental Divide often times keep the colder air away from town. The high mountains often prevent the cold air that surges down from Canada from crossing over into Butte. As such, even during the winter, Butte can be surprisingly warm – frequently much warmer than Helena, which lies on the other side of the Continental Divide just a scant 80 miles away.
As is common throughout Western Montana, during the winters cloudy days are the norm. Sun is often a rare commodity from November – April. However, the flip side is that summers and falls in Butte are generally very nice, with warm but not hot days and cool nights.
Outdoor Recreation Around Butte
Butte, due to its location in a mountainous area, has plenty to do for anyone who enjoys outdoor sports. The mountains around town provide plenty of hiking and hunting opportunities. Numerous old forest roads also provide great mountain biking. Fishing is also surprisingly good, considering the environmental horrors that have occurred, in nearby rivers – particularly the Clark Fork to the west of town. The Madison River, the Missouri River and the Big Hole River are also relatively close by and have excellent trout fishing. The Anaconda Settling Ponds have excellent monster trout fishing during select times of the year and provide for waterfowl hunting.
Overall, Butte is a very interesting town. While I personally would not want to live there, Butte is fun and interesting to visit. Butte is full of history, and if you like history you will most definitely like Butte. Between the history, the unique sights of the mining rigs, the Berkley Pit and the historic buildings – a person visiting Butte for the first time will have plenty of interesting things to do and to see.
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