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Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine, Helena

(50+ reviews on the web)
Tourist Spot Mine
In the late 1800's this portion of the Missouri River was dredge mined for gold. Samuel T. Hauser Montana's 7th territorial governor oversaw the mining operation.

After hearing complaints from the miners about blue stones clogging the sluices he decided to collect some samples, and sent them to England. They were identified as sapphires, and were deemed worthless.

During the Civil War (1861-1865) the miners were able to continue dredging on the condition they were contributing to the war effort. They did this by collecting rounded sapphires, and hematite which were used as ammo.

The mining operation was eventually halted due to the decline of gold recovery.

It wasn't until the 1950's that the sapphires were unearthed once more. A supreme court judge by the name of Wesley Castles had purchased the land for recreational use for his family, and it was his youngest daughter Deb Castles who rediscovered the sapphires in the shallows on the Missouri River.

Wesley Castles opened Castles Sapphire Mine to the public shortly after.

The Montana sapphire started to gain in popularity during the 1970's, and in 1981 a rumor had spread about princess Diana's engagement ring being a Montana sapphire. People from around the world flocked to Montana in search of their own fortunes.



In the 1980's Castles Sapphire Mine was renamed Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine after the gravel bar where the sapphires were deposited 30-40 million years ago.

Today visitors can either mine their own sapphires from virgin banks, or buy concentrated gravel which has been ran through a trammel and jig that classifies down the rocks by weight, and size which tends to have a higher yield.
Use our Helena vacation builder to visit Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine on your trip to Helena, and learn what else travelers and our writers recommend seeing nearby.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • We went in late May and sifted through a bag of "concentrate" from the El Dorado Bar. The weather was gorgeous and we enjoyed playing in the rocks. We found a few sapphires, about 5 were big enough to...  more »
  • A 20 minute or so drive outside of Helena, Montana will get you to the Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine shop where, for a fee, you'll be able to purchase a sack of sapphire gravel from one of the company's o...  more »
  • My son and I had a great day picking through our rocks, we even found several rough sapphirestart and garnets! The staff was friendly and informative about the history of the area and how to effective...  more »
Google
  • You might find something or you might not. This place is a pretty cool rock shop with a wide variety of fossil specimens and mineral specimens. If your passing through, I would definitely stop by and say hello to Copper! (One of the dogs there)
  • Go to Gem Mountain in philipsburg instead. We spent $130 there and found 180 carats. The next day we spent the same amount at Spokane and got around 15 carats.