October 3, 2013

Cooke City

On our recent trip to Yellowstone, we stayed in Cooke City, Montana, just outside the park.  Census records include the 10 square miles from Cooke City-Silvergate to the Yellowstone Park entrance.  The population density is 140, or 14 people per square mile!  Of course, that's year round population, not counting tourists. 
Originally, the community was called Shoo Fly, after the most properous mine in the area, and was later named Cooke City after a big mining investor.  Unfortunately, the mining bigwigs took all the profit and left the area polluted .... pretty much like what's happened all over the west in the last 100+ years.  An effort is underway to clean up the upper reaches of Soda Butte Creek, located just outside of the town.  That's a start, but a lot more work will be needed to restore the area to its pristine pre-mining condition. 
This is the office of the lodge we stayed in. 
Part of the main building is 100 years old.  A huge cable inside holds up one weight bearing wall.  That made me a little nervous, but an employee said it's been that way for years.
Our actual accommodation was this cabin.  It's 50's vintage all the way.
Someone appeared to be living in a caboose. 
Here's another old lodge, this one no longer in business.  In fact, the building itself appears to be on the verge of falling down. 
The Cooke City General Store, the oldest structure in town, is still in operation. 
Cooke City hosts Yellowstone auto tourists all summer, and provides food and lodging for snowmobilers that come from the east via the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway in winter.  The only winter auto access is through Yellowstone National Park from Gardiner, Montana. Judging by the several "for sale" signs on local establishments, it's not an easy life.   The winters are long, and crowds are slim in the fall/spring off-seasons.
I wonder about the distance accuracy, but the point might be that Cooke City is a long way from anywhere.  Notice the blue phone sign above the arrows.  Yes, they still have a pay phone in town.  Wi-fi is available, but for some reason it's a cell phone dead zone. 


  1. I think you've given new meaning to the phrase 'middle of nowhere'. But the area around Cooke City is certainly beautiful -- I only hope the streams can be cleaned up.

  2. Wow. That is farrrrr away from a lot of anything. But beautiful just the same. I love your little cottage; what a nice get away for you and Steve.

  3. Hmmm, nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

  4. I don't think I've ever heard of Cooke City. I'd like to visit someday...when there's no snow. Interesting read about Shaw and losing his life fording the river.

  5. Hi Janie, Mary & I stayed in Cooke City in 1996 when we went into Yellowstone to track the wolves. I remember it being bitter cold that night. I also remember that I got the best milkshake I've ever yasted with dinner!

  6. Love you 50s cabin. This looks like my kind of town, except for lack of cell service. Sure hope the mining mess can be cleaned up.

  7. We've been thru here numerous times but never stopped to look closely. I think we should have. I do love the Beartooth range grizzley bears and all....:)

  8. What a charming place, fun to imagine what it would be like to live in such a small town. :)

  9. Because I live in a city (Minneapolis), this is the sort of thing I look for on a vacation. I am always overcome with the silence, with the HUGE-ness of it all -- and how very small I am.

    Somehow, I take comfort in knowing that I'm not all that big/important in the grand scheme of nature. :-)


  10. shame about the mining leaving behind so much damage. and also about the name change. Shoo Fly sure seems like a nice place to visit.

  11. Looks like you had a lot of fun. It is a very nice little town after most of the visitors have left.


  12. that was a fun little place to stay in to end your trip.

  13. Looks like an interesting place and I love your little 'cabin'... We like 'off of the beaten track' places like that. Interesting!!!

    We were in Gardiner on our Yellowstone Trip--but didn't go any farther north, out of the park.

    As nice as that area would be in summer, I'll bet it's a hard way to live in the bitter cold winter.

    Speaking of winter, did you all get any of that snow which hit the northwest?


  14. I love this old town- especially the General Store and Caboose of course.

    Happy trails :)

  15. I think I'd enjoy a day or two there but year-round, not so much. It looks a bit lonely.

  16. Great shots Janie! My favorite area though we did not know about this town. We will have to put that on the list next time we go.

    I am still in Germany but wedding celebrations are now winding down and I was able to get on line for a little while. We will be doing some sight-seeing tomorrow and in a few days we will be on our way home.

  17. Lovely pics from Yellow stone.The cottages, the caboose, the greenery, the hills are all so beautiful. I was in Yellowstone in Oct'2012. Had a great time there. Stayed overnight at Mammoth Springs Hotel.Fantastic trip.
    Have a great week end. Ram

  18. Cute-looking village. Your commentary at the end verifies what we learned when we were planning our first trip to Yellowstone - trying to find accommodations, food, etc., from October through spring there is extremely difficult.




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