Coloma ‘Mystery Camp’ Ghost Town of the Month

Coloma lies a few miles above the Garnet Range in Missoula County at the end of a rutted trail.   It had the earliest known gold mining activity occur in the 1860’s.   The first lode claim was in 1879 by J.E. VanGundy of Deer Lodge and some of his partners.  The claim is known as the Mammoth Lode after the Mammoth Gold Mining Company who was a major employer in the area.  Some mines still remain near the site.  The town was active from 1893-1906 and produced approximately $250k in gold. The area became active again in 1918 to 1921 and then from 1932 to 1950.   In addition to the mine shafts there are also ventilation systems, pumping machines and the remains of  narrow-gauge railroad tracks still on site. As of 2009, there is an archaeological study being conducted by the University of Montana.

In its prime Coloma was bustling with the Chamberlain boarding house, Moss family mercantile, post office, library and a school.  By the early 1900’s the Mammoth Gold Mining Company began having financial trouble and could not come out from under their problems.  Coloma dwindled in size with decling gold placer mining activities and in town population. After the 1950’s the town became a ghost town.

The history of Coloma is very mysterious. U.S. Geological survey teams described Coloma as very active in 1896 and the following years. In 1916 there was some activity, mills were installed, the survey team found that the mines were unprofitable. There was gold to be found, in veins, which appear to be small. The amount of work that was done was not typical to the amount of gold to be found. Mining records are missing, however it was estimated that $200,000 of gold ore was taken from the mines. The gold was reported to have been mined, but most of the gold was lost in tailings. The survey team aborted their research. 

It is still very difficult to find any information about Coloma. Nearby residents claim they know nothing of the site, and refuse to answer any questions. Speculation has developed two conclusions: either the failures are so embarrassing no one wants to remember, or there are still discoveries to be found that no one wishes to expose.

The Bureau of Land Management manages Coloma and is allowing nature to run its course.






References Cited

Montana Official State Travel Site