Anaconda Smelter (c)2016 J.S.Reinitz


(c)2016 J.S.Reinitz

From the distance, it looked like something out of Lord of the Rings — a dark, impossibly tall tower looming in the foothills, perhaps a wizard’s stronghold crowned by a fiery floating eye or something will later be attacked by humanoid tree creatures.

The tower was visible from miles away as we traveled through the valleys of western Montana on our journey. As we neared the stone giant, and after miles of guessing its origin and purpose, we happened upon a rest stop with a display that answered the riddle.

The structure is the remaining smoke stack of the Anaconda Copper Mining Company smelter that was left standing as a testimony to the workers after the rest of the 100-year-old facility was torn down in 1986. At 585 feet tall, the stack is the highest masonry structure in the world, passing the Washington Monument by 29 1/2 feet. Fitting, as the operation was once the largest non-iron smelter in the world.

More on Anaconda Copper here.

For cool stuff to do in the area, click here.