National Geographic : 2004 Jan
People come to Basin looking for miracles: cures for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, depression, cataracts. From the highway, though, the tiny Montana town doesn't seem to offer much. There's just one exit, and a single long look reveals all there is to the place: a collection of weathered houses and old miners' cabins huddling close to the interstate, caught between the high peaks of the Elkhorn range. Basin looks like a place left behind on a whim. Were it not for its radon "health mines," Basin, population 250, would probably vanish back into the mountains as quickly as it came, left only in the memories of the boomers, or prospectors, who first called this place home. Miners founded Basin in 1880, when it was nothing more than a col lection of brothels, tents, and saloons in a Montana that hadn't even grad uated to statehood. Law and order depended less on rules than on the Sufferers of arthritis, asthma, and other chronic ailments gather Inthe Merry Widow Mine to Inhale radon gas that seeps naturally Into the old gold and silver mine. Some doctors say such "therapy" may be a cancer risk, but believers say the proof Is In the pain relief.