Miners

From the 1850's to the 1950's, gold and silver were periodically mined from the rugged wilderness peaks of the North Cascades.
 
Black Warrior Mine
The story of mining in the North Cascades is one of broken dreams. In the 1850s, prospectors began searching for gold along the banks of the Skagit River. After gold was discovered along Ruby Creek in the late 1870s, hundreds of miners swarmed over the upper Skagit valley. They found little gold, and the rush was over by 1880.

Over the next few decades, miners turned their attention to other minerals, primarily silver and lead, located higher in the mountains. New claims were established in the high country around Cascade Pass, including Doubtful Lake, Boston and Horseshoe Basins and Bridge Creek. A rich silver deposit was found just below Boston Glacier near the headwaters of Thunder Creek in 1892, and another rush was on. Some silver was located, but the costs of getting the ore out were too high. By 1913 most of the Thunder Creek mining companies had folded. Mining continued along the Stehekin drainage through the 1910's until metal values dropped and it became too costly. Interest in mining in the area did not resume until WWI increased the demand for metal and then again during the 1940's to 1950's for the last time. Short working seasons, unpredictable weather conditions, difficult transportation, limited accessibility and lack of working capital were all factors that hampered the development of large-scale mining in the North Cascades. The only exception was the Holden Mine which was located outside of the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, southwest of Stehekin.
 
(Adapted from "Sharing the Skagit: An Educator's Guide to the Skagit River Watershed" from the North Cascades Institute. © 1993.)
 
Two men stand outside a mine entrance.

Black Warrior Mine

Rumors of gold in the 1880s spurred M.M. Kingman and Al Pershall to prospect along Basin Creek. In 1891, sale of their claims, Black Warrior and Blue Devil, for $30,000 kindled old fever anew. Soon “discoveries” dotted Horseshoe Basin.

The prospectors’ dreams were grand -- a 4-mile tunnel under Horseshoe Basin’s pinnacles to connect with mines on Thunder Creek and a railroad up Lake Chelan. But by 1914 their optimism was buried by avalanches, rockslides and transportation barriers.

After World War II, shortages of copper, lead and zinc brought miners back to the basin. Miners built living quarters and a room for a generator and tools. The generator provided electricity and compressed air for drilling. The cascade outside the entrance supplied a water system complete with flush toilets and a hot water tank. A mine-to-market road was built from Lake Chelan into the basin. Yet, the small amount of quality ore, transportation problems and weather proved insurmountable. The larger mining equipment was sold for taxes in 1959.

The Black Warrior Mine is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For more information visit, park history online.

Last updated: January 10, 2020

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