Extracted from the book
Under the Shadow of Mt. Haggin:
The Story of Anaconda and Deer Lodge County from 1863-1975.
A Bicentennial Year “Heritage” Project. Collected and compiled
by the Deer Lodge County History Group. 1975.
A POWER PLANT IN FAIRYLAND
Written by A. C. Howard. Pages 43-45.
Once upon a time prior to Highway 10A and Flint Creek Hill, a Red Bridge
spanned Philipsburg Bay at the west end of Georgetown Lake just a few hundred
yards above the dam that’s there today. Teamsters and their lumbering wagons
crossed the Red Bridge and followed a primitive road down the steep hill on
the south side of the canyon to Philipsburg and to Bi-Metallic’s power plant
if freighting from Anaconda. Flint Creek Hill as we now know it was just a
surveyor’s dream. A narrow dam at the head of the lake held the sprawling
water overflow and a spillway channeled it into a round wooden flume about 5
feet in diameter and built of heavy cedar staves encircled by iron banding.
The flume is still in operation. The original dam was just wide enough to
accommodate a horse and rider.
The Red Bridge was razed in 1935 when the present wide dam and roadway over it
was completed by the Montana Power Company. Senior citizen anglers remember
the lines of fishermen casting from the bridge railings for trout. This was
before power boats and skiers churned the waters.
The flume is the actual headwaters of Flint Creek and was constructed by the
Bi-Metallic Mining Company which mined the silver, gold and lead ores from the
old Granite and Rumsey mines. It is built over trestles and through rock hewn
tunnels in order to maintain its meandering down grade flow and empties into a
200,000 gallon concrete surge tank high over the power house below.
Through an opening in the top of the surge tank atop the hill a few daring
explorers who had overcome their temerity enough to offset an acrophobia
complex claim they have seen several huge trout gliding slowly in the shadowed
and eerie darkness of the tank in lazy aquatic solitude. A screen at the
outlet keeps them in hopeless eternal captivity. An iron runged ladder that
ran up the side of the tank has been removed to discourage the curious from
dangers of climbing to the top of the giddy sky perch. The flume and the tank
are visible from view points along Flint Creek Hill.
From the surge tank reservoir the water is diverted down a 36-inch riveted
steel pipe in a near vertical 700 foot drop reaching a pressure of
approximately 300 psi. This is the pressure that spins the two turbines
generating 11,000 kilowatts of power and 23,000 volts by the transformers.
The outer circumference of the down pipe is made thicker by degrees near the
bottom of the drop in order to withstand the terrific pressure. This pipe is
covered with dirt and brush but its path is seen as a partially cleared groove
down the hillside. The technicalities of power generating are beyond my
meager comprehension and I assume that the layman reader is on a par with me.
Power personnel will please bear with us in our ignorance of their specialty.
The power house interior is strikingly painted in dark blue and gold and the
spotlessly clean smooth concrete floor is light grey. The total complex is
contained in a two acre scenic plot. In addition to the power house proper
there is a pretty caretaker cottage, a guest cottage, a four door garage and
two storage sheds. The lawn is neatly trimmed and various antique farm
implements add to the pleasant landscape. The overflow from the creek runs
right between the cottage back door and near perpendicular hillside.
Chipmunks scamper over the lawn and an occasional nosey bear with a cub may
challenge the priority of residence.
The Flint Creek hydroelectric plant was initiated in 1891 and pictures
indicate that the present building was in use in 1901.
Mr. and Mrs. Jim Wolfe are the cheerful and gracious caretaker and maintenance
couple who live the year around in this idyllic garden spot.
From the power plant complex the sylvan beauty in summertime and in winter
months the sparkling wonderland, deep snow and glistening frost on the pines
offer a sight so awe inspiring that little people stop their chatter and
adults feel the reverence of the Creator in deference to the majestic and
primeval beauty and quietude on a valley floor. The 20-foot wide Flint Creek
meanders babbling and serenely totally unaffected by its terrific 700 foot
drop and its contact with the whirling blades of the turbines. Its waters
have done their work in aiding man and in his ingenuity to bring industry and
comfort to a nervous and restless world. It flows between the canyon walls
for about two miles where it enters the broad grasslands and meadows of Flint
Creek valley and the grazing cattle herds in belly high grass. It empties
into the Clark Fork River (formerly Deer Lodge River) at Drummond.
The Deer Lodge Forest Service maintains the 600 acre Flint Creek camp grounds
and furnishes cooking grates, wood, picnic tables and garbage disposal barrels
at no charge to the public lucky enough to know of the gratuity. At intervals
rustic low wooden bridges span the creek and camping is made available on both
sides of the stream. The road into the grounds takes off from highway 10-A at
the foot of Flint Creek Hill.
In the CCC days of the mid-‘30’s, a CCC camp was built and a miniature lake
was excavated below the power house. Due to the amount of garbage from the
camp, numerous black bears congregated to scavenge the bonus in food. The
forest service personnel did not permit killing the pesky bears, but did aid
in escorting some of them to less domestic confines. The windows of the camp
were screened to discourage bear foragings. It is said that the bears
preferred entering a building through the roof top and exit by windows or
doors. In passing, we are reminded that many of Roosevelt’s CCC boys, being
easterners and never having seen such country, cut themselves when using a
double bitted ax; it seems that when they chopped into a tree trunk the ax had
a vengeful habit of rebounding in reflex resentment.
The four mile long Flint Creek hill was surveyed for highway construction in
the early 1900’s and took several years to complete. The road of today
follows the old original grade quite closely. In fact, there is just about no
deviation permitted due to the rugged terrain. A few “U” turns have been
broadened and numerous rock falls and slides have dictated widening in spots
and added ditching on the upper side. An old water trough is no longer a
landmark of nostalgia, its need being replaced by cars that speed up the hill
like it wasn’t there. In the Model “T” era it was a matter of disbelief and
worth of discussion if someone reported a car had pulled the hill without a
stop or adding water. After a celebration in the ‘Burg on a Sunday the road
was speckled with 4-cylinder Tin Lizzies with steaming radiators, burned out
clutch bands and entire families pushing to ease the load and make the top.
Model T’s had only two forward gears – low and go. A driver pushed the clutch
pedal down for low-go and revved the engine. After much growling and noise
the clutch pedal was quickly released and that automatically put the car in
high go gear. It would then perform for a short distance and the process had
to be replayed.
Dozens of men, teams, scrapers, fresnoes, plows, powder men and laborers
toiled many long hours under dangerous conditions to make a road for us who
follow so unconcernedly and effortlessly. Numerous turnouts now make stopping
a viewing a safe pleasure. Looking a thousand feet nearly straight down, the
turnouts now make stopping and viewing a safe pleasure. Looking a thousand
feet nearly straight down, the power house blending in the trees could be
mistaken for a miniature fairyland estate or an “Elfdom.”
The rock formations and sheer rock faces on the uphill side offer geologists a
roadside exposure of geodynamics through a visible history of vast mountain
forming upheavals in times dinosaurian.
the foot of the hill, turn off 10-A a mile from the bottom and go over the
picturesque 7250 foot Skalkaho pass leading to Hamilton and its temperate
agricultural valley. The Skalkaho pass is a no-no from November until
mid-July since many miles on both sides of the summit are impossible to clear
of snow in the winter.
Highway 10-A between Anaconda and Philipsburg offers more scenic attraction in
26 miles of diversified beauty than any other like distance logged on a map.
SILVER AND GEORGETOWN LAKES
This was written by A. C. Howard.
The alternation of water levels in the umbilical
cord contiguity of Silver and Georgetown Lakes has long intrigued Sunday
drivers who glide along 10-A Highway enjoying the beauty of these scenic
resources while quite unaware of the sources of their waters, their drainage,
the ditches, dams, pumps and the many manipulations of maintenance required
for their artificial control.
Silver Lake is 13 miles west of Anaconda and Georgetown Lake, famed for its
fishing and recreational facilities, is 2 miles farther on. Silver Lake is
approximately 4 miles in circumference, clear, cold and practically fishless
due to, it is thought, the constantly changing depth and interaction of two
contrasting lake ecologies. Its average depth is about 100 feet and, contrary
to eerie tales of bottomlessness and being siphoned by an underground river,
persons drowned in Flathead Lake have never surfaced on Silver Lake’s expanse.
The elevation is 6,444 feet when full and a pump house at the end of a 200
foot causeway sends water to the Anaconda smelters by creek, flume and
pipeline, some being pumped into Butte through a large buried pipeline from
Anaconda. Silver Lake is fed through creeks and a flume with water
originating in Storm Lake and Twin Lakes. Depending on the volume of water
needed these lake bound waters may be shunted or by-passed at a controlled “T”
in a flume above the lake. This excess water flows into Warm Springs Creek
and thence into the Deer Lodge valley and the Clark Fork River on its way to
the Pacific. At one time in the dim past a sightseeing boat plied the Silver
Lake waters but no one seems to remember the name of the ghost ship nor what
became of it.
Georgetown Lake is 15 miles from Anaconda on 10-A and is fed from waters of
West Flint Creek originating near Red Lion, Echo Lake’s outlet, Hardtla Creek,
Stuart Mill Creed and numerous springs in the lake bed. Georgetown Lake is
about 25 miles in circumference with its several fingers or bays. It is not a
clear water lake, is quite shallow and warms up enough in summer months for
comfortable boating and swimming.
Prior to Bi-Metallic Mining Company operations in the Rumsey, Granite and
Philipsburg areas, the present lake bed was ranch and marshland. In the late
1890’s Bi-Metallic built a narrow dam at the Flint Creek outlet which caused
flooding of the whole lake bottom. The backed up water was then channeled
into a 42 inch flume terminating in a huge surge tank high up over the Flint
Creek Power house where the water dropped perpendicularly over 700 feet to
spin the turbines and generators for electrical transmission line to the
Georgetown Lake is 29 feet lower than Silver Lake--6,415 feet above see level
when full. When water is below a given level in Silver Lake a pump house on
10-A’s roadside (an inconspicuous concrete low structure at lake’s edge) pumps
water through a 34 inch pipeline from Georgetown Lake up to Silver Lake.
Conversely, when Silver Lake is sufficiently full diversion gate control
permits excess water to flow into Georgetown Lake for greater area
distribution. Confusing? Yes – to anyone but Delmer Kruse, lake control
foreman. Through his manipulation of the intricacies of water balancing
controls he actually determines which of two watersheds he elects to favor
i.e., Georgetown water to Silver Lake and the Deer Lodge valley, or Silver
Lake water into Georgetown Lake and down into the Flint Creek valley. Both
wind up on the Clark Fork River, Pacific bound.
Georgetown Lake is famous for its open water fishing in summer and its fishing
through the ice in the winter. In ice fishing weather the ice is dotted with
tents, wind breaks, small fires and whatever medicinal prescriptions an
imaginary doctor would prescribe to keep blood from freezing in ones veins.
They tell tales of it being so cold that 90 proof bourbon froze in the
bottle. That’s went their fish get so big that they have to drill two holes
in the ice to get them out and Stu Markle, area Game Warden, avoids the
Georgetown is rimmed with summer cottages and populated with boats, water
skiers and swimmers in July and August. A summer home complex and marina
dominate the southwest shore of Philipsburg Bay. A road encircles the lake
and there is a service complex at Denton’s point and campgrounds along 10-A’s
lakeside. The Brown Derby Inn and cabin site is between Silver Lake and
Georgetown and Seven Gables complex at the turnoff enroute to the Discovery
Basin Ski area, Southern Cross, Echo Lake, St. Timothy’s Chapel and view point
and the Red Lion ghost town country offers interesting side trips rich in
timber, vast scenic expanses and the invigoration of a near 8,000 foot dust
free air altitude. This is when one communes with nature and feels the sound
of total silence.
A steam boat once plied
the Georgetown Lake waters and the B. A. & P. Railroad opened a freight
service hauling ore and timber from Southern Cross. The rails have long ago
been torn up; logging and mining operations have ceased; but echoes of the
past guarded by the shadow of our great Mount Haggin and the solitude of the
Pintler Wilderness, permeate the Soul of the sensitive in reverence to