Named for a salt lick that was popular with deer during the frontier days, Deer Lodge is the center of a vast valley full of history and recreation.
Deer Lodge’s ornate Victorian homes are witness to the prosperity and aspirations of early farmers and ranchers. The fact that early legislatures established the State Home for the Insane in Warm Springs, the State Tuberculosis Sanitarium in Galen, and the State Penitentiary in Deer Lodge is indicative of the valley’s political clout.
While the valley prospered as a result of its proximity to Butte  and Anaconda  markets, the pollution of these two industrial centers was at odds with the farms and ranches. The Works Progress Administration’s 1939 Montana, A State Guide Book described the waters of Silver Bow Creek just above present-day Fairmont Hot Springs  as “muddied with the refuse of Butte mines, though in places it is intensely blue from dissolved copper salts.”
The Clark Fork was unable to support aquatic life until the 1960s, after 10 years of cleanup.
Between stricter mining regulations and the decline of mining in general, the valley has returned to a degree of its former integrity. A portion of the Clark Fork by Warm Springs offers such great fishing that it is now regulated by the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.