The Radon Baths
Old Montana Mine Shafts Furnished as Radioactive Health Spas

SEVERAL ABANDONED GOLD AND SILVER mines in the hills around Boulder, Montana, have found new uses as health spas. These radon health mines have high concentrations of radioactive radon gas in the air and the water inside the mine, a gas which many believe to be beneficial to the body, in limited doses. Said to be the only such health mines in the Americas, visitors from around the country, and many Canadians, come to spend a few days or weeks inside the mines, primarily absorbing the gas through the air.

To accommodate these visitors, the six independently owned mines have simple - and moisture resistant - furnishings, including tables strewn with magazines. During prescribed hour-long visits (the State Board of Health recommends no more than an hour or two at a time in the mine, and prohibits small children and pregnant women from entering), visitors talk amongst themselves, knit, read, or just sit silently, in some cases soaking their feet in radon rich pools of water.

Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that is formed from the naturally occurring radioactive decay of radium and uranium. Visitors to the health mines, mostly elderly people, find that it relieves symptoms of arthritis, emphysema, diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, eczema, psoriasis and other health problems. Of the thousands that visit the mines, many maintain the regimen on a yearly basis, and each mine boasts a collection of numerous testimonials.

Merry Widow Health Mine

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Alcoves off this 500 foot long tunnel hold a small bathing area, picnic-type tables, and the "poodle pen" to hold pets. Most visitors sit in the main chamber at the end of the tunnel, many with their feet in basins of water. Electric radiant heaters provide heat in the sitting areas. Magazines on tables, testimonials hanging on walls, and grafitti from visitors is common. Our short visit here caused a geiger counter to give us a .6 mr/hr rating.

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Sunshine Health Mine

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A highly decorated, and social mine. Just inside the entrance there is a grotto with artificial flowers and a small plastic faun. Further down are alcoves with exercise bikes. There is a wide main chamber at the end, with names of visitors written over every wooden surface, and on a table are board games, paperback books, and magazines. The surrounding outbuildings create a community resort atmosphere, with lawn, pond, laundry room, hot tub, and cabins.

Lone Tree Health Mine

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The smallest of the mines, shallow and wide, with cinder block walls. Furnished mostly with green vinyl metal framed school bus bench seats, which were found in all the health mines.

Earth Angel Health Mine

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This mine has the strongest concentration of radon gas, limiting users to 20 visits at a stretch (instead of the usual 30). Halfway down the 600 foot long tunnel, a fork leads to a narrow, dry chamber, with a few chairs. The main tunnel, paved with concrete, extends further, and has a small stream of water running alongside the walkway. At the end is a chest high dam with a grate on top, opening onto a reservoir - a dark, linear pool of water, plunging deep into the mountain. No decorations at all in this mine.

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Free Enterprise Health Mine

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The Free Enterprise mine is the oldest and most developed health mine, established in 1952. Visitors enter the mine after an elevator ride, departing from a lounge and reception area inside a cinderblock building. The elevator slowly drops 85 feet, and opens in the middle of a mined hallway, with sitting rooms at either end. This seems to be the most business-like mine, with more substantial buildings, and a website and 800 number.

High Ore Health Mine

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The most remote mine (a few miles into the hills, down dirt road from the highway), and the least decorative entrance. A very long, and very wet tunnel, with mining car rails in the floor. One car remains off to the side in an alcove. Old bottles line the walls as decoration, along with white mold on wooden walls, and written testimonials discolored with age and moisture. At the end is the usual small table with wax tablecloth, and the reading material typical of these mines: Readers Digest, National Geographic, Family Circle. Past the last alcove is a locked gate blocking off the rest of the mine. The mine was completely unattended and open when we visited, light switch on the wall.

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