Jefferson County, Montana (population 10,000), is located on the Continental Divide and is home to two incorporated towns, Boulder and Whitehall. The area, first settled in the mid-1800s, was rich in gold, silver, timber, hot springs, and cattle rangeland. As mines and ranches were discovered and settled in Jefferson County during the later part of the 19th century, the railroad became an integral part of the economy. Today, the county’s economy is still based on mining and wood products, as well as agricultural production.
The Elkhorn mining district is Jefferson County's most famous mining establishment.
Although a few residents still live in the town of Elkhorn, most of what remains is essentially a ghost town, with old miner cabins, stables, and Fraternity Hall, the meeting place where the whole town came together.
In the county seat of Boulder, the 1889 courthouse displays artifacts celebrating mining, ranching and family life over the past 150 years in Jefferson County. The Jefferson Valley Museum in Whitehall, just off the main street and housed in two historic buildings, also exhibits items depicting the history and heritage of the area.
Two to three times a year, “Discover Jefferson County” guided historical tours take residents and visitors to a number of historical sites, including the courthouse, Boulder Hot Springs, the Free Enterprise Health Mine, and Comet, an old mining town. The Jefferson County Heritage Center is restoring Boulder’s original 1888 bank, which will serve as the city’s first historical museum.
Other tourist attractions include Tizer Botanic Gardens, at an elevation of just under 5000 feet, and the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. During their journey, Lewis and Clark discovered about 276 new species of plants that did not grow in the eastern part of the country. Many of those plants can be seen as part of Tizer Gardens collections.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2008.