History & Culture

Cultural Resources

The Forest Service is charged with the preservation and stewardship of many types of cultural, historic and traditional heritage sites found in the national forests. These sites range from prehistoric aboriginal sites dating to 12,000 years ago to the time Euro-Americans made contact with tribal people.

Historic sites and landscapes on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest range from places walked by Lewis and Clark and fur trappers to those sites and landscapes built or shaped by early miners, ranchers homesteaders and the Forest Service itself.

A Case in Point, the Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns

One important approach to preserving this heritage is the stabilization or the restoration of significant prehistoric and historic sites. In the case of “stabilization” the intent is to arrest deterioration and keep the site, structure or historic landscape in its current condition. “Restoration” requires a higher level of heritage resource management and one that aims to restore a site, structure or landscape to the appearance it had during some period of its historic use and importance.

We have photos that illustrate one heritage stewardship project in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest that involved both the stabilization of some historic structures and the restoration of others. The 23 brick bee-hived-shaped charcoal kilns at Canyon Creek site where built in 1881 and produced charcoal for use in the silver and lead smelters at Glendale, Montana. Glendale is now a ghost town a few miles south of the kilns. Both the smelter and kilns were built by the Hecla Consolidated Mining Company and ceased operation in 1900.

The Canyon Creek charcoal kilns historic site is a heritage resource listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This designation acknowledges the site’s historic and cultural importance and the worthiness of the site for long-term preservation. “Passport In Time” volunteers and Forest Service employees worked on a stabilization and restoration project to insure that the charcoal kilns would be available both for study by scholars and for enjoyment by Americans for years to come. Three charcoal kilns were restored as nearly as possible to their original condition and stabilization work was begun on others.

Cultural History

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in Prehistory

Historic Period

Heritage Areas of Special Interest


The Birch Creek Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp

Nestled amid the Pioneer Mountains, the Birch Creek Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp was constructed in 1935 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal." It operated for 6 years with a peak enrollment of over 200 men. Birch Creek is one of the best remaining examples of a CCC camp in the nation and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

History - Lewis and Clark

Lemhi Pass, in the Beaverhead Mountains of the Bitterroot Range and along the Continental Divide, is the site where, in 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition first saw the headwaters of the Columbia River, which flow to the Pacific Ocean


Cultural Resources - Links to Other Web Sites

You can find more information about cultural resources on the WWW using these links.