Cooke City and Silver Gate
John Colter was the first white person in the area, leading the 19th-century parade of mountain men, traders, prospectors, and speculators.
Until 1882 this was still recognized as Crow land, and relatively few whites intruded. By 1883, however, Cooke City, named after the son of a Northern Pacific financier, was a booming mine town. Gold, silver, and lead were extracted from the mountains, but because of the remoteness, the boom didn’t last.
Unmined lodes remain around Cooke City, but it’s still hard to get to them, and until recently the mining costs were reckoned to be too high to maintain much of an operation.
Other than occasional mining speculation and attendant high-level wheeling and dealing, Cooke City (elev. 7,651 feet) is a tourist town. There’s just one street to reckon with here, and it’s easy to walk from one end of it to the other. Even in the summer, when drivers spill off the Beartooth Highway, there’s an easygoing rustic flavor. During the winter, when the Beartooth Highway shuts down, Cooke City is open via the road through Yellowstone National Park to Gardiner.
Silver Gate, three miles west of Cooke City, was established as a resort town shortly after construction of the Beartooth Highway. Together the two towns have about 140 year-round residents.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition