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Chapter 7:
Mining in the Craters of the Moon Region, 1882-1928

Overview of Mining in Southern Idaho and the Snake River Plain

Mining exerted considerable influence on Idaho's development as a state. Especially in the last four decades of the nineteenth century, gold and silver discoveries, as well as those of lead and copper, generated excitement and interest in southern Idaho. Mining attracted a frontier population willing to take financial and physical risks for the opportunity to gain untold wealth. Despite difficulties locating, extracting, processing, and transporting valuable minerals, Idaho's miners rushed from one promising discovery to another. "Even when judged by Western standards," the historian Rodman W. Paul wrote, "Idaho's gold rush people were extraordinarily unstable." And in the words of noted western historian Hugh H. Bancroft, 'The miners of Idaho were like quicksilver. A mass of them dropped in any locality, broke up into individual globules, and ran off after any atom of gold in their vicinity. They stayed nowhere longer than the gold attracted them." In their wake they helped establish communities of small farming and ranching enterprises that supplied the mining districts. In this way the mining economy drew settlement to the area and led to Idaho's statehood in 1890. Without the mining economy, southern Idaho's agricultural settlement would have grown slowly; the arid country offered little appeal to farmers and ranchers, most likely delaying settlement until railroad service became available on a broad scale by the turn of the century. [1]

In the 1860s gold and silver mining in southern Idaho, as throughout much of the West, produced "years of intense excitement and eager anticipation." Rarely did such anticipation materialize in the Southwest, but for many places in the Northwest "flush times ruled" for most of the decade. Along with Montana, Idaho offered prospectors the closest reality of discovering a new California. It was a place with an abundance of placers, gold deposited in sandbars, gravel banks, or stream beds, which was easily mined with simple equipment. It was also a place with promising gold and silver lodes, or contained in veins, which was not as easily mined, for it required large sums of capital, expensive equipment, and labor. [2]

Gold and silver finds, both small and large, set off a series of rushes to southern Idaho mining districts from 1862 until 1869, when mining declined. Mining excitement created a pattern of successive boom towns in Idaho as it did all over the West. According to Idaho historian Merle W. Wells, "prospecting led to discovery and stampede, and finally to the formation of a new mining district, if there really was anything in the area to develop." In southern Idaho, this pattern varied according to placer and lode strikes and was seen in a "dozen or more early mining areas" in the region. [3]

Up until the early 1860s thousands of men raced to promising new gold and silver strikes all over the West, including Colorado and British Columbia in 1858 and Nevada in 1859. Gold was found in northern Idaho in Nez Perce country in 1860, giving rise to camps like Orofino, only to be hastily abandoned when news of gold in the Salmon River region broke. Florence, the new center for activity, struggled into existence during the hard winter of 1861-1862. But with the discovery of gold in the Boise Basin in summer and fall of 1862, miners deserted Florence as well and headed for "the new mecca" in southwestern Idaho. [4]

Although gold was found in Montana that same year, the great placers of the Boise Basin "turned out to be the most important." Compared to other districts in the Pacific Northwest, the new mines eclipsed anything that had been found. A major gold rush to the Boise Basin commenced in the fall of 1862 and proceeded unabated to 1864. Considered to be easily the most densely populated and most productive placer and quartz mining section of Idaho, the Boise Basin supported a population of about 16,000 in 1864 during the temperate months, and it was estimated that between 1863 and 1866, the mines probably produced about $17 million. More than miners resided in the basin and contributed to the economy. Emigrants headed for the Pacific coast, either on the main Oregon Trail or the more direct route of Goodale's Cutoff, were attracted to Boise valley, settled there, and seized the opportunity to provide the mining camps with farm products and other supplies. [5]

In the mid-1860s interest shifted from Boise to new mines in the South Boise and Owyhee districts, and some less successful rushes over the Snake River Plain. By 1865 and 1866, Montana captured the imagination of gold and silver seekers and its promise lured many away from the Boise area. Any surplus population drifted away from the Boise Basin when new discoveries were made in northeastern Nevada by 1868. Yet unlike its predecessor districts, the Boise mines outlasted their initial discovery and produced continuously even after other districts captured most of the attention. [6]

The future of southern Idaho's mining economy existed primarily with lode mining after 1869; most of the placer areas, except for places such as the Boise Basin, had been depleted. But in order for the more expensive lode mining to be successful, it required capital and awaited, among other things, improved technology and transportation to extract, process, and transport the ore to market. Throughout the West and southern Idaho, the 1870s were discouraging times for mining, particularly with the depression of 1873. But a new mining boom of significant size emerged late that decade and the 1880s. This later boom concentrated on silver more than gold, and base metals such as lead and copper. Recovering base metals led to the development of smelting facilities, their accompanying service industries, and the close affiliation with new technological advancements, new railroads, and a new capacity for attracting large investments of capital. [7]

By the early 1880s lead-silver recovery in Idaho outdistanced gold mining; the major lead-silver operations lay in the northern panhandle in the Coeur d'Alene country, whereas, on a smaller scale, southern Idaho's lead-silver empire lay in the Wood River country. Initial mineral discoveries on Wood River date to the Boise Basin gold rush years of the 1860s. Nothing came of these finds immediately. Indian conflicts during the 1870s delayed any development, but these were resolved with the end of the Bannock War of 1878. By then profitable smelting methods had been proven in other western mining districts, and construction of the Oregon Short Line was making its way across southern Idaho, close to Wood River. With these changes, mining interests revised their opinion of the valley and returned to prospect.

Prospectors located and filed claims for lead-silver mines in 1879, and by the spring of 1880 a rush to Wood River was underway. That summer still other mines were discovered, transforming the region into southern Idaho's leading mining center for at least a decade. By the end of 1899, the Wood River mines had produced more than $14 million in silver and about $5 million in lead. Most of this money had been accrued during the 1880s, the same years that gave rise to the communities and mining centers of Bellevue, Hailey, Ketchum, Bullion, Broadford, Muldoon, Vienna, Galena, and Sawtooth City, among others. As in the Boise Basin, Wood River mining influenced the establishment of ranching and farming settlements in the Wood River and Little Wood River valleys. In 1883 a branch of the Oregon Short Line reached Hailey and further aided both mining operations and settlement. No matter these improvements, mining booms eventually busted. Declining lead and silver prices in the early 1890s, combined with the panic of 1893 and more cost-efficient smelting operations in Salt Lake City, Denver, or Omaha, effectively shut down the Wood River mines. [8] Though mining itself did not fade away, the rushes and small-time operations did, giving way to more industrial and corporate-based enterprises.

Mining in the Craters of the Moon Region, 1882-1928

Mining activities near what is now Craters of the Moon were tied to the lead- silver boom of the 1880s occurring throughout southern Idaho. Early in the decade, the Wood River rush, for example, spawned interest in the lead-silver lodes of the more remote Lava Creek district. An important yet short-lived silver producer in Idaho, the district thrived during the mid-1880s with the discovery of the Horn Silver Mine and the development of mining centers such as Era and Martin. The rectangular-shaped district encompassed the drainages of Lava Creek, Champagne Creek, and Antelope Creek, for a total of about 108 square miles. (The area included townships two and three north, ranges twenty-four and twenty-five east, and the eastern halves of townships two and three north, range twenty-three east.) Its eastern boundary lay about sixteen miles west of Arco, most of the district falling within the boundaries of Butte County and small portion within Blaine County. Although most of the mining district covered the high mountains north and northwest of today's monument, its southeastern corner embraced the foothills of the Pioneer Mountains and Little Cottonwood Creek. [9]

Initial mining excitement developed when prospectors discovered the first copper lodes in upper Big Lost River Valley in 1879 near the present town of Mackay in the Copper Basin. More promising strikes were made by 1884. News spread of these discoveries and the development of the Big Copper mine (later known as the White Knob mine) causing a rush to the Lost River area. Towns like Cliff City, Carbonate, Alder City, and Houston sprang up, it seemed, in the wink of an eye. Among the hopeful prospectors and miners were some from the Wood River mines. Faced with limited prospects around Ketchum and Hailey, they headed for the "New Eldorado." Some, like James D. Martin, traveled over Goodale's Cutoff, now the Blackfoot-Wood River stage and freight road, going "around the lavas" to reach the new mining centers. [10] Traveling the route was nothing new, for miners heading to the Boise Basin in the 1860s covered the same ground.

In the midst of this mining excitement, James B. Hood made lead-silver discoveries in the Lava Creek area, west of the Big Lost River, in 1879. He had problems convincing possible investors about the value of his find for several years. But in the wake of the Wood River rush, he experienced less trouble. Another selling point for his potential mining camp was its access from the Blackfoot-Wood River road along Goodale's Cutoff. In this way he was not only connected to the smaller agricultural communities such as Arco and Carey, but the larger communities with railway connections such as Blackfoot and Hailey. Hailey also had a smelter. [11]

Hood worked his claims for at least two years, preparing eight lead-silver veins for mining, most of his outcrops testing from about one hundred to two hundred ounces of silver per ton of ore. By 1882 mining was progressing slowly on Champagne Creek, as was the development of two camps, Era and Martin. Hood sent two loads of ore to Hailey for testing by the middle of 1884, which produced about five and six hundred ounces of silver a ton. [12]

The real boom began in June 1884, however, when Frank Martin discovered the Horn Silver Mine near Era. Martin's mine proved to be a rich find. He and his brother, Samuel, hauled and shipped ore to Salt Lake City where it yielded just over eight hundred ounces of silver a ton. With that news the rush to the Lava Creek district commenced and Era boomed. By the hundreds miners, prospectors, and others descended upon the district in the mid-1880s. The townsite for Era, named for Frank Martin's nephew, was located along Champagne Creek and was established in the spring of 1885, as was a post office later that year. A post office for Martin had been established in 1882, and about the same time that Era was developing, a townsite was laid out for Martin, located on Lava Creek near the Martin family ranch four miles to the east. A townsite company planned, surveyed, and platted 250 lots. [13]

Martin's find attracted eastern capital as well, and in August 1885 he sold his mine for $62,500, generating, it seems, more excitement over what mining prospects the region contained. The new company expanded operations, and other prospectors, seeking their fortunes, soon reported new discoveries. Among these mines were the Last Chance, Reliance, Policy, and St. Louis on Champagne Creek, the Hub on Lava Creek, as well as additional discoveries on Antelope Creek. "In a very short time," James Martin recalled, the country was flush with fortune seekers; "there were prospectors camping all around the mountains at the heads of Dry Fork of Antelope [Creek], Fish Creek, Lava Creek, and Champagne Creek." Prospectors literally cluttered the hills. And people "from everywhere were staking out lots and preparing to build in the prospective metropolis of Era." [14]

Growing with the mining flurry and operations, Era proved to be a good barometer of the Lava Creek mining boom. After the Horn Silver Mine went into operation, the town supported a transient population of anywhere from several hundred to several thousand at its peak. For the 1886 territorial election, the mining town mustered more than 180 votes. By at least 1887, Era could boast six saloons, a hardware store, a drug store, three general stores, two livery stables, a mining equipment store, a barber shop, an opera house, a blacksmith shop, at least one brothel, and private dwellings--all occupying log cabins, wood-frame buildings, shanties, or tents. [15]

But as with most booms, Era's soon busted. The main producing mine was the Horn Silver, and as it went, it seemed, so too did the district. After the new owners made improvements, adding a twenty-stamp mill and a recovery plant, the mine turned out about $250,000 in the 1886-1887 season. But in general the mining venture failed because the operators could not perfect the milling process. Within a year the mines declined rapidly. Other discoveries of ore in the district met with similar results. Era's slightly used stamp mill stood silent; Nicholia, the closest smelter, shut down, and a price collapse in 1888 exacerbated mining problems. One group of mine owners attempted to use Era's twenty-stamp mill for a galena mine in the summer of 1889 but failed to make the recovery process work and shut down later that year.

In order for mining to be profitable in Era and the Lava Creek district, processing had to be done locally; it was too expensive to ship ore to distant cities like Denver and Salt Lake City. A brief resurgence in milling at Era in July 1893 confronted this problem, and the unhappy coincidences of dropping silver prices and the panic of 1893, all but ending the visions of any new Eldorado. Mining operations at Era and throughout the district, it seemed, faced repeated obstacles in the form of location, market value, and recovery problems. Although between 1897 and 1928 there were brief revivals, nothing major ever developed. The district probably realized a total of $400,000. [16]

As for Era, a few people lingered until the turn of the century. Its post office closed in 1894 and mail delivery was transferred to Martin. Like so many towns of its kind, Era faded from sight. Eventually, its stores, houses, and other structures along with the bricks from the mill were moved to the new townsite of Arco after 1901. Martin, while never the going concern that Era was, lasted longer--if only in name. Much of the town was the Martin ranch and continued to serve as a stage stop, local supply center, and post office, which was discontinued in 1940. [17]

Mining and Mining Claims within Craters of the Moon, 1887-1928

The Lava Creek district's southeast corner encompassed Little Cottonwood Creek in today's Craters of the Moon National Monument (T. 2 N., R. 24 E.) and drainages within its immediate vicinity. Mines and mining prospects, such as the Hub, Paymaster, Silver Bell, Edna, Golden Chariot, and Silver Tip, for example, were scattered throughout the drainages of Lava and Big Cottonwood creeks; they contained a variety of ores, including silver, silver-lead, zinc, and copper. The deposits ranged in elevations from 6,000 to 9,300 feet, some of which were easily accessible from local roads, while others located on high mountain slopes were more difficult to reach. Just as the mines ranged in elevation, they ranged in time of discovery. Some mines like the Golden Chariot and the Hub were discovered in the 1880s and 1890s. But others like the Edna and Silver Bell were discovered during the first decades of the 1900s, when mining underwent brief revivals in this district [18]

The first mining activity to appear in this area was associated with the silver boom of the mid-1880s and was located on the ridge separating the headwaters of Little Cottonwood Creek and the South Fork of Lava Creek (the northern part of Section 16 which was eliminated from the monument in the 1930s). Most of the mining activity here surrounded the operations of the Hub Mine, on the South Fork of Lava Creek. It went into production in the mid-1880s, soon after Frank Martin discovered the Horn Silver Mine. The claim lay mostly outside of monument's boundaries (sections 8, 9, 17), but a portion of it lay in Section 16 on a slope above Lava Creek, at an elevation of over 6,000 feet. During the first two years of its development, the mine produced at least $90,000, mostly in silver and some in gold. But like most mining in the Lava Creek district, its production soon went dormant with only occasional revivals. In addition to the Hub, about fourteen other mining claims, dotting the area above Little Cottonwood Creek and the South Fork of Lava Creek, were filed between 1887 and 1921. [19] The record is not complete about what became of these claims and their related mining activities, but it seems that they never developed on the same level as the Hub or Horn Silver mines.

South of these claims, in the southern half of Section 16, there was more obscure evidence of prospecting and mine exploration. On the flanks of the ridge, piles of stones "suggestive of claim corners" were noted in the early 1930s but no valid claims were found. Similarly, in Section 21, below the ridge on Little Cottonwood Creek and within the present-day monument, some markers for old mining locations were discovered. Yet from the appearance of the few remaining corner stakes, prospectors had abandoned the claims years earlier. No county records existed for these claims. [20]

In the midst of these scattered prospecting and exploration resource was Little Cottonwood Creek. It witnessed the only known hard rock mine development and mineral extraction within the present monument. The Martin Mine was located on the creek's eastern branch, at an elevation of about 6,300 feet in the narrow, V-shaped valley. Surrounded by the steep slopes of the Pioneer Mountains, with their mix of quaking aspen and Douglas fir, the mine was reached by a steep, one-and-a-half mile dirt road along the creek. The property was made up of a group of nine lode claims, commonly referred to as either the Creek Group of lode claims or the Creek lode mining claims; they comprised approximately 160 acres, although records on these matters were not always clear. The Creek, Frank White, South Side, and Spring claims were located in 1921; the Midway in 1922; Spring No. 2 in 1926; and the Black Hawk, Big Timber, and Lincoln in 1929. Mattie D. Martin and Otto B. Fleischer of Arco were the original owners, though ownership changed hands over the years. [21]

The owners of the mine reportedly began working their claims about 1922, producing most of their ore in 1925 and 1926, accumulating as of 1928 some thirty tons. Silver and gold were the most abundant minerals of the lode; silver, for example, averaged more than one hundred ounces a ton, and gold anywhere from a quarter to three-quarters of an ounce per ton. Despite these promising values, the mine only yielded a small amount of ore because the lode lay in the creek channel, which flooded the tunnel and required continuous pumping. Fumes from the pump's exhaust also filled the tunnel causing hazardous working conditions and limiting work to three hours a day. Further complicating production, the ore body was unlike other deposits in the district; it did not follow a single vein or fissure but, like an slanted pipe, lay at the intersection of numerous fissures. [22]

Only a little more is known of the actual mining operations. While hiking up Little Cottonwood Creek in late September 1926, the geologist Harold T. Stearns noted an upper and lower mine, the latter flooded with creek water, but nothing more. Even though little production seems to have taken place, the mine owners improved their property. Between the 1920s and 1934, this site consisted of seven structures in two groups, all of which were reported to be on the Creek mining claim. One group of buildings contained a hoist house, measuring sixteen by eighteen feet, an engine room, measuring sixteen by eighteen feet, a blacksmith shop, its dimensions unknown; the other group of buildings contained a mess house, measuring twelve by sixteen feet, a bunkhouse, measuring twelve by fourteen feet; and a storage shed and a cellar, their dimensions unknown as well. All the structures were wood frame, except for the bunk house which was constructed out of logs. The mining works themselves consisted of an 85-foot shaft, about 515 feet of tunnel (its average diameter about 4 feet), and general mining wastes such as tailings piles. [23]

Except for some minor ore removal in the 1920s and apparently in the mid-1950s, the Martin property was all but abandoned as a working mine shortly after discovery. Similar to other mining operations in the Lava Creek district, it is believed that the ore from the Martin Mine was not valuable enough to offset removal, milling, transportation, and smelting costs. [24]

In 1960 some of the mining works showed obvious signs of disrepair. The collar of the mine shaft had caved in and almost half of the buildings had disappeared. Of these it is difficult to know which were original because their descriptions differed from those described in the mid-1930s. A mine inspection report documented four buildings on the claim. One, a log cabin measuring about fourteen by twenty feet, had mortar chinking, a plank floor, and was in fair condition. A second log cabin, evidently in deteriorated condition, measured some twelve by fifteen feet. Connected to this cabin by a covered walkway was a wood-frame cabin with a shed roof, approximately twelve by fifteen feet, also in deteriorated condition. The last structure, located near the opening of the tunnel, was a small, wood-frame shed, sided and roofed with corrugated, galvanized steel sheets, its dimensions about eight by ten feet. [25]

In the early 1960s the National Park Service, with the assistance of the Bureau of Land Management, invalidated all but one of the nine claims making up the Martin Mine site. This final claim was the Creek mining claim, approximately twenty acres, upon which some or all of the mining works and related structures were located. Through its natural history association, Craters of the Moon purchased this remaining claim in 1967. After the claims had been declared invalid, monument officials notified the owners (or estate since the last owner died before negotiations were finished) that they could remove the buildings and clean up all debris by the end of June 1967. Officials evidently extended the same invitation after assuming ownership of the Creek claim. The owners removed one building in the 1960s, but the rest remained. Early in the 1980s, the Park Service tore down the remaining structures and filled in the mine shaft and tunnel. At that time, all that remained were several piles of mine tailings along the creek bed, mining and road scars on the hillside above the creek, and structural fragments where buildings and some mine works once stood. [26] In October 1994, rehabilitation erased these last vestiges of mining. [27]

Summary of Context Theme

Mining played an important role in the development of Idaho. The last four decades of the nineteenth century and the first two of the twentieth century saw a flurry of activity surrounding various rushes. The resulting economic development led to the creation of the Gem state and contributed to the establishment of small communities, which supplied the mines with agricultural products and other goods. At the turn of the century the great booms faded but settlement of Idaho was well underway.

Near Craters of the Moon mining followed a similar pattern. The discovery of the Wood River mines in 1880 heightened interest in more remote regions such as the Lost River country and led to the development of the Lava Creek Mining District in the mid-1880s. Mining interests used the route of Goodale's Cutoff (Blackfoot-Wood River stage road) to reach the new mines, ship their ore, and bring in supplies for the camps. Boom towns like Era and Martin grew and benefited directly from the mining activity, as did the more permanent town of Arco which profited from its location along the freight and stage routes to the mines. Mining peaked in the district by the 1890s, and, though subject to brief revivals, was abandoned by the late 1920s.

Mining touched the monument as well. Prospectors combed the area in search of valuable minerals. For a time, part of a silver mine lay within monument lands, and at least one working mine, the Martin Mine, was developed within Craters of the Moon's present boundaries. Even though mining in the monument was not that extensive, it was connected to mining in the region. For example, the monument embraces a section of the overland trail miners and prospectors traveled over to reach the mines; it contains claim markers and, until recently, the remains of an unsuccessful hard rock mine. All of these vestiges of mining suggest the monument's association with the surrounding Lava Creek Mining District as well as mining in southern Idaho during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Associated Property Types

Name of Property Types: Hard Rock Mining Sites--Prospecting/Mine Exploration and Mine Development and Exploitation


Resources associated with mineral extraction are complex and for evaluation purposes can be organized according to three basic functions. These are, according to National Register Bulletin 42, "extraction of the ore from the earth; beneficiation, which upgrades the ore's value; and refining, which enhances the value of the ore/metal even further until it achieves a nearly pure state." At Craters of the Moon mining activity falls under the first function, extraction. Property types associated with extraction, in turn, fit into two general categories reflecting the evolution of a mine and/or mining activity. These are (1) prospecting and mine exploration and (2) mine development and exploitation. [28]

The historical resources that one could expect to find associated with prospecting and mine exploration sites at Craters of the Moon are hand-dug prospect pits, drill holes, and possibly power-shovel trenches and bulldozer cuts. Based on the speculative nature of the mining industry isolated holes--adits or shafts--may also qualify as separate property types.

The properties that one could expect to find for mine development and exploitation at Craters of the Moon are "the physical remains of hoisting works such as headframes and hoist engines; open pits or shafts or adits; ventilation systems such as air shafts or blowers; power systems such as steam boilers or electric generator houses; drainage systems such as Cornish pumps; water delivery systems; transportation systems such as...ore cart runways; and maintenance and administrative facilities such as blacksmith shops...offices and worker's housing." Other properties types include tailings, stone claim markers, and corner stakes.

The above descriptions of resources associated with historic mining generally relate to the scattered evidence of mining activity in Craters of the Moon National Monument when it was part of the Lava Creek Mining District. Specifically, most of these resources related to the former Martin Mine site.


The resources associated with mining activity in Craters of the Moon may qualify for listing in the National Register under Criterion A in the area of Exploration/Settlement. The mining properties are associated with historic mining which contributed to the settlement of the Lost River country and, as part of the larger arena of silver mining in southern Idaho, settlement of the region. (There are numerous possible themes such as commerce, economics, and engineering but the mines of the Lava Creek district do not appear to have had the same impact as those in the larger Wood River region.) Mining properties within the monument should also be evaluated under Criterion D--for what information they might yield about prehistory or


Silver mining and the extraction of other valuable minerals occurred in the Lava Creek Mining District between the mid-1880s and the late 1920s. The most important mines in this district peaked by the 1890s, but some mining continued into the 1920s as part of intermittent revivals on a much smaller scale. A corner of Craters of the Moon National Monument belonged to the Lava Creek district and witnessed mining activity during this period. Although sections of the monument which contained mining operations and most of the structures associated with them inside today's monument have been eliminated, evidence of mineral prospecting and extraction may still be found within the monument's boundaries.

Registration Requirements:

At Craters of the Moon, mining properties that may qualify for listing in the National Register must date between the mid-1880s and the late 1920s. To be listed in the National Register a mining property must have not only have historical significance but also have integrity. Integrity is the ability of a property to convey its significance. Mining properties require a slightly different perspective when being evaluated for integrity because by their very nature they are often in a deteriorated condition. Abandonment, vandalism, and harsh environmental conditions, for example, contribute to this physical state. Therefore, a single mining property component may lack integrity until it is considered as one of many properties conveying a collective image, that of a historically significant mining operation. "In essence, the whole of this property will be greater than the sum of its parts."

The following aspects of integrity require consideration when evaluating hard rock mining properties at Craters of the Moon:


Hard rock mine properties at Craters of the Moon should have integrity of location. That is, a mine or piece of mining equipment should be in its original location. A mine or other extraction sites did not move, but the equipment used for extraction often did. If mining equipment has been moved, it could retain integrity if it were relocated to a mine older than fifty years. Equipment less than fifty years old would not necessarily detract from a historic mine's significance, but it would not contribute to the property's significance either. Moreover, mining machinery would no longer possess integrity if it was removed from the mine property for display in museum or to serve some other interpretive function divorced from its the historic mining activity.


The setting of historic mining properties at Craters of the Moon is tied closely to their location, for it is the appearance created by an array of abandoned machinery, unsightly tailings piles lining stream beds, and dilapidated buildings and structures littering the landscape that represents the setting of bygone industrial activity. These vestiges of mining operations are important aspects of setting "that can actually contribute to the integrity of a mining property." Modern intrusions, however, would detract from the setting.


Mines evolve through time and the likelihood of finding one that is in an unaltered state in Craters of the Moon, or anyplace else for that matter in the Lava Creek district, would be rare. Evaluating the integrity of a mine's design then should take into consideration a property's evolution through time and not just its conformity with original design plans or established mine engineering practices. It should also be noted that the underground works of a mine were also designed as part of the mine system and may be considered when establishing integrity--but only if they are safe to inspect. Although considering these above factors is important, the cumulative loss of features could ultimately detract from a mine's design integrity. Evaluation of design integrity would have to weigh these variables.

Materials and Workmanship:

For mining properties within Craters of the Moon to retain integrity of materials, there should be evidence that previous repair or restoration efforts have used materials sympathetic to those used originally. Most mine structures were made of unpainted and untreated wood, for example. Similarly, mining properties should retain evidence of original workmanship, as much as possible. This is especially true, for example, in the preservation of features such as square-set timbers in an underground system.

Feeling and Association:

The mining properties in Craters of the Moon should evoke strong feelings of abandonment and isolation, for these are the most common feelings associated with the boom and bust cycle of historic mining activity. When the bottom fell out of the mining industry or when a particular ore deposit was exhausted, for example, mine owners simply walked away from their operations, deserting machinery and structures. Any evaluation of a mining site, then, should determine whether modern development has diminished the integrity of this feeling of isolation and abandonment. Similarly, integrity of association will exist for a historic mining operation if its assortment of mine structures, equipment, and other visible features "remain to convey a strong sense of connectedness" between a mining property and "a contemporary observer's ability to discern the historical activity which occurred at the location."


Craters of the Moon may benefit from a thorough investigation and evaluation of its historic mining properties using a more holistic outlook as outlined in National Register Bulletin 42. Specialists might find more about mining in the monument and its relationship to mining in the Lava Creek district. This, however, is unlikely. Based on existing evidence, the Martin Mine site was the only known hard rock mine property in the monument. Although associated with the Lava Creek district, it appears to have been a site notable only for mineral extraction, not refining, beneficiation, or engineering design. At one time it possessed many of the structures associated with mineral extraction, but the deterioration and removal of the mining complex, as well as the collapse and filling of mining works, diminished the integrity of the site, to the point where it no longer exhibited integrity of design, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. Two archaeological surveys, one from 1966 and the other from 1992, identified no significant cultural resources in the area, and a more complete archaeological inspection of the mine site from the summer of 1994 concluded that it was not eligible for the National Register. The State Historic Preservation Office concurred with the Park Service's conclusion that the site lacked historical and archaeological significance in September 1994, and the site was rehabilitated the following month.

This action does not necessarily rule out the existence of any other mining properties. Other physical evidence of historic mining activity, such as test holes, rock cairns marking abandoned mining claims, and corner stakes, could exist in the monument and benefit from field investigations as well. These properties may have historical significance if they can be shown to be vestiges of larger mining operations. This may occur, for example, if a historical archaeologist discovers evidence which associates these properties with an adjacent camp or mining machinery, or if they can be shown to be associated with an early settler of the area, a prominent miner who is not associated with any other properties, or with prehistoric or aboriginal mining.

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Last Updated: 27-Aug-1999