History Basic Data
NPS Logo

Chapter 5

The story of mining in the North Cascades National Park complex has many threads that crisscross in intricate detail. The area has almost 6,000 unpatented claims and almost 2,000 acres of patented claims. This story is incomplete in that miners are still working a few claims. This chapter attempts only to outline the mining history and note some of its highlights.

Compared to other mineral regions in the West, the North Cascades' mines have produced but little wealth, barely enough to keep the dreams of elusive riches alive. The sale of claims has probably produced more profit than the metals of those claims. Many men have gone broke in these hills. Yet this mining history cannot be overlooked. It has been one of the more active industries in the North Cascades; it has resulted in the thorough exploration of the mountain wilderness; and it contributed to the settlement and development of the surrounding areas.

The Skagit

Documentation concerning the earliest prospectors is extremely scarce. In 1858-59 an excited stampede of would-be miners poured into southern British Columbia, creating a "gold rush" along the Fraser River and its tributaries. This proved to be a short-lived rush and, by 1859, the disenchanted were drifting back to the States. A portion of these men, traveling overland, skirted past the western foothills of the North Cascades. A few probably ascended the Nooksack and the Skagit rivers looking for gold on the sand and gravel bars of these streams.

An early history of the country mentions that a party of prospectors, including A. S. Buffington and J. K. Tukey, explored up the Skagit in the summer of 1858: "They stated that in the first twelve miles of the river they met with obstructions consisting of three rafts [log jams], after passing which they prospected the bars, and invariably found gold." This group is said to have gone up the Skagit as far as the Baker River, then up the latter toward Mount Baker until they "fell in with several Indian camps." From that sketchy description, they probably did not enter today's park. [1] An even more vague account suggests that returning prospectors found gold on Ruby Creek in 1859. However, Henry Custer explored the junction of the Skagit and Ruby Creek that summer and reported neither prospectors nor gold. [2]

Not until 1872 did prospectors again travel up the Skagit. Local tradition holds that in that year John Sutter, George Sanger, and John Rowley reached Ruby Creek. Sutter found a ruby on the creek, thereby giving it its name. [3] Three years later, 1875, Amasa Everett, Lafayette Stevens, Orlando Graham, and (again) John Rowley, all settlers around the mouth of the Skagit, prospected for gold near present Marblemount. At this time, Rowley is said to have taken up a claim near the junction of the Skagit and the Baker. [4]

In 1877, activity increased. That year, Otto Klement, Charles von Presentin, John Duncan, Frank Scott, and Rowley traveled up the river. At the yet-to-be-named Goodell's Landing they built a log cabin and sluice boxes and began prospecting. Having little luck in that area, they traveled up the river through Diablo Canyon, where they described finding a natural bridge, and on to Ruby Creek. Here their luck changed. They discovered "fine specimens of the precious metal" before snow forced them to return to the coast. [5]

The next summer they resumed prospecting, stopping long enough to build another cabin, the Tunnel House, located at the natural bridge. They made only sufficient discoveries this year to encourage them to come back in 1879. The third season provided the strikes that set off the first gold rush in the North Cascades, a short-lived scramble that hit its climax within twelve months. Albert Bacon and some associates put in a wing dam on Ruby Creek, eight miles above its mouth, and named this claim "Nip and Tuck." They washed out $1,500 in gold dust. Rowley, Duncan, and others went farther up the Ruby to its tributary, Canyon Creek. They took out $1,000 in dust. [6]

By August 1879, 62 prospectors had fanned out along Canyon and Ruby creeks, digging ditches and building flumes and sluices. And still they came. As soon as settlers on the Skagit Flats could clear the log jams on the lower river, steamboats began plying the lower fifty miles of the Skagit. Miners covered the next forty miles of the river by canoe. But above Goodell's Landing, they had to pack their food and supplies to the claims, some of them being fifty miles farther on difficult trails. [7]

Seattle business men and investors, spotting their own gold mines in outfitting and backing miners, held meetings to discuss financing improvements to the trails to the mines. In December 1879, they met in Squire's Opera House to plan fund-raising, collecting over $1,500 before the meeting was over. [8] Other towns along the Sound followed suit. All of them were concerned that the Canadian settlements along the Fraser River, such as Fort Hope, would grab the larger share of trade by transporting supplies down the Skagit to Ruby Creek. [9] By the end of the year, the Sound newspapers were boasting, with considerable exaggeration, that as many as 5,000 men had gone to the Skagit mines. Many hundreds did go, despite the coming winter storms and all the other hazards. Disasters occurred and lives were lost. On one occasion, a canoe containing twelve men upset. Six of the passengers drowned. [10]

The year 1880 began with a continuing frenzy of excitement. Demands for an improved trail continued to make themselves heard. The North Pacific Coast estimated that a trail suitable for pack trains could be constructed for $2,000. It also reported a Seattle resident, C. D. Boren, as saying that "not only Chinamen but all foreigners should be excluded from the mines." Men laid plans for transporting in the iron and other materials needed for water-powered sawmills. Although snow was still four feet deep at Ruby Creek on March 15, 400 men were said to be busy at the strikes, "and more going every day." A traveler to the mines about April reported:

We passed up the entire length of Ruby and Canyon Creeks as far as the "falls," and found every foot of the way taken up, apparently; also many claims are taken on Granite, Mill and Slate Creeks, tributaries of Canyon Creek, as well as several claims off in Gatins creek. [11]

By the time the rush had reached its zenith that year, the miners had formed the Ruby Creek mining district and had elected George Sawyer as the recorder. Surveyors plotted Ruby City--the ground still covered with up to twenty feet of snow. Canadian customs authorities surprised American business men by allowing American goods to pass through British Columbia in bond. The Bellingham Bay Mail said: "This is quite a concession and convenience to those going in from northern routes." Granite Creek had 96 claims and Thunder Creek had 30, in addition to the Ruby and its several tributaries. One company, the Skagit Mining Company, organized in Portland, Oregon, in May, with a stock of $1,000,000, and with a great many plans for development. [12]

Then, the rush was over. The bust came even more quickly than the boom. Gold simply did not exist in sufficient quantity to make placer mining profitable. Most of the men left. Ruby Creek rushed toward the Skagit as before; but now abandoned equipment, sluices, and wing dams littered its banks. Ruby City, except for a small store, never had the opportunity to be built. The Puget Sound Mail announced curtly on October 30, 1880, that "the Ruby gold was over, and that it had been a failure." [13]

Those men who remained in the upper country continued to take out small quantities of gold during the 1880s. Jack Durand continued to work the Colonial Mine on Colonial Creek, a tributary of Thunder Creek. The Skagit News in 1884 told of four prospectors getting "several colors of gold, but unfortunately brought none home to relieve the monetary tightness now epidemic." Four other men, L. S. Stevens, John Rouse, George Rowse, and F. Reese, reported finding a quartz ledge "rich in gold and silver" on Cascade River in 1885.

The placer mines having failed to produce, men now turned to the idea of hard rock mining, and to planning a road that would allow heavy machinery to be taken into the upper country. Hard rock mining would mean the end to hordes of individual prospectors roaming the country. The amount of capital required demanded the formation of large companies. Yet the Ruby gold rush left its mark. That portion of the North Cascades was now fully known. Men were now familiar with the wealth of timber and the agricultural potential of the lower Skagit. The country would not be empty of modern man again. [l4]

The decade of the 1890s witnessed a second "boom" in mining on the upper tributaries of Ruby Creek and on a few other major streams that flow into the Skagit. Companies, rather than individuals, developed these hard rock mines having gold-bearing quartz ore. For the most part, they brought their share-holders little profit.

The most successful of these strikes, the Barron mines, lay outside today's park. In 1891, Alec Barron of Anacortes prospected on Slate Creek near Hart's Pass. He struck gold, and the news of the discovery set off the second "rush." By 1894, the town of Barron, with a population of over 1,000, burst into existence. Miners reached this district by trails from both the Skagit and the Methow rivers. Visitors to the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 could, if they desired, stare at a 400-pound of gold-bearing quartz from the Barron mines. This chunk of ore traveled from the mine, down Slate, Canyon, and Ruby Creeks, over the Skagit Trail, then on to the Pacific by canoe. [15]

Other developments included a mill on Mill Creek and a narrow-gauge road from Mill Creek to Barron (both outside today's park), built by the North American Mining Company about 1895. John Russner and some associates explored the headwaters of Thunder Creek in 1891, and established several claims in that area. The next year, the Skagit Mining and Milling Company bought out Russner and began shipping out quartz ore to be refined. However, this first major effort on upper Thunder Creek proved unprofitable rather quickly. Some activity continued on the headwaters of Cascade River (see below). Then, in 1897-98, came the Klondike gold rush in northwestern Canada. The miners of the North Cascades, as elsewhere, dropped their shovels and headed for Yukon Territory. Another quiet spell fell on the mountains. [16]

In 1897, an important little book, Mining in the Pacific Northwest, appeared on the market. Designed to be a guide for anyone interested in mining activities in the North Cascades and elsewhere, it gives an accurate picture of mining developments up to that year. The editor, L. K. Hodges, discussed the area district by district, including Ruby Creek, Thunder Creek, Cascade River, and Stehekin River. Within each district he listed the claims by number and, where applicable, by name. A map accompanied the text. Here and there, however, names appear that are still well known. Two years later, a Seattle firm published a similar map, on a larger scale. Some differences exist between these two sources, such as using different numbering systems. Together, they present a reasonably accurate concept of mining up to the turn of the century. [17]

Ruby Creek

At the mouth of Ruby Creek, 38 claims blanketed both sides of the stream. Those named were: Rubber Neck, Hydraulic, Nugget, O. K. No. 3, O. K. No. 2, O. K. No. 1, The Tramp, Noodrat, and Paymaster.

Thunder Creek and Cascade River

On upper Thunder Creek and the North Fork of Cascade River, their tributaries, and the mountain complex between them, a large number of claims existed. Those named were:

Iceberg (upper Thunder Ck. area)
Towser (upper Thunder Ck. area)
Hartford (upper Thunder Ck. area)
Willis & Everett (West Fork, Thunder Ck.)
Boston (North Fork, Cascade)
Chicago (North Fork, Cascade)
Brooklyn (North Fork, Cascade)
Franklin (North Fork, Cascade)
Rainbow (North Fork, Cascade)
Keystone (North Fork, Cascade)
Diamond (North Fork, Cascade)
Midas (North Fork, Cascade)
Pride of Kildare (North Fork, Cascade)
Pride of W. Seattle (North Fork, Cascade)
Saratoga (North Fork, Cascade)
Gold Run (North Fork, Cascade)
Golden Eagle (North Fork, Cascade)
Mountain Chief (North Fork, Cascade)
North Star (North Fork, Cascade)
Ventura (North Fork, Cascade)
Soldier Boy (North Fork, Cascade River)
Tarcoo Union (Johannesburg Mtn. area, N. Fork, Cascade R.)
Prospector's Friend (Johannesburg Mtn. area, N. Fork, Cascade R.)
Johnsburg (or Johnsboro) (Johannesburg Mtn. area, N. Fork, Cascade R.)
Lookout (Johannesburg Mtn. area, N. Fork, Cascade R.)
Granite (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
Buckeye Boy (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
Ohio (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
Roscoe Conkling (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
Hoosier Gal (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
Michigan (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
Grand Republic (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
London (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
San Francisco (Johannesburg Mtn. area, near park boundary)
Lucky Boy (Location not shown)
Gladstone (location not shown)
Fourth of July (location not shown)
Daisy (Roush Creek area, Eldorado Peak)
Pride of the Mountain (Roush Creek area, Eldorado Peak)
Rex (Eldorado Peak area)
King Solomon (Eldorado Peak area)
Queen of Sheba (Eldorado Peak area)

Concerning the Cascade area, Hodges wrote:

Among the earliest mining discoveries in the Cascade Range was the galena district at the head of the Cascade River. . . . Tradition dates it back to one of a party of soldiers, who were coming across the summit from Fort Colville to Fort Vancouver, about twenty years ago [Lt. Pierce, 1882]. This man found a piece of rich float and afterwards returned and located the Soldier Boy claim.

The discovery of the Cascade District was made by George L. Rouse [Rowse], John C. Rouse, and Gilbert Landre in September, 1889 . . . The Rouses [sic] located the Boston claim and Mr. Landre the Chicago on its west extension.

Hodges said also that the Boston had the greatest showing in the district, and that the Silver Queen Mining and Smelting Company had made the largest single investment in the district.

After the turn of the century, hopes for fortunes flared up from time to time in the various districts. In the Ruby Creek district the Eureka Company (owned by Charles D. Lane, San Francisco) reported taking out a great amount of gold, particularly on Slate Creek. In 1906, the Ruby Creek Mining Company began working the gravel beds at the confluence of the Ruby and the Skagit. The company erected a sawmill, bunkhouse, cookhouse, a four-mile wooden flume, and a hydraulic plant. Almost immediately, the company went broke and abandoned the site. Later, its buildings served as the Ruby Creek Inn. [18] Ross Lake now floods this area. However, rumors persist that traces of a flume still remain on Ruby Mountain. (Further reference to this flume is found in the chapter "Public Domain.")

Also in 1906, O. B. Brown installed a Pelton water wheel and a generator on Ruby Creek to serve several mines in the area. The largest of these outfits was the Chancellor Gold Company, which had $200,000 in stock. But within a year this combine went broke also. Someone removed the company's power plant later. A forest fire eventually destroyed the buildings. [19]

Thunder Creek witnessed a great increase in activity shortly after 1900 with the discovery of lead and silver along with gold ores on the upper tributaries. Several companies took up claims here. One of these, the North Coast Mining and Milling Company, incorporated in Tacoma in 1908, with a stock issue of $1,000,000. Its major hope was the Colonial claim. But within a few years, this company had virtually disappeared from the scene. [20]

The Skagit Queen Mining Company, incorporated in 1905, was equally ambitious on Thunder Creek area. It concentrated its activities along Skagit Queen Creek (a patented mine of that name still exists), where it discovered 29 separate lodes. The company erected a substantial camp: bunkhouse, messhall, storehouse, powder house, and a barn. A U. S. surveyor described the set-up in 1908:

Here is a 30" Pelton Wheel, operating under 150 ft. head of water. This wheel runs a 15 H.P. Electric Generator, which furnishes power for machine drills at the mines, 5,000 feet distant, also light for mine and camp.

Here is installed a 10 H.P. Induction Motor, running an 8" x 4-1/2" Air Compressor. Two small machine drills are at the mine, a Sinclair and a Hard-[illeg.]. With these facilities we [sic] are making only fair headway as the machinery is too light to advance the tunnel rapidly.

To overcome this latter difficulty, the company planned to install a 48-inch Pelton wheel with a 550-foot head, producing 250 horse power. Whether the company carried out this plan is not known.

An official of the company, George Senior, visited the mines in 1908. He reported that the supply base and corral were located at Marblemount. Packtrains carried equipment and food up the Skagit and Thunder Creek from there. He passed the North Coast Company's Colonial mine on his way up Thunder Creek; and he saw the Standard Reduction & Development Company's claims on the hillside directly above the Skagit Queen.

That fall, this company absorbed a small outfit named the Protective Mining Company and renamed itself the Skagit Queen Consolidated Mining Company. By then, it had one tunnel bored to a depth of 113 feet in the "Dude Ledge." Although the assays were favorable ($200 per ton for silver, $9 for gold), the company quickly came to grief when the veins invariably proved to be both narrow and shallow. Like its predecessors, this outfit soon fell into monetary difficulties.

Located nearby was the British Mining Company. By 1912, this organization held 31 claims and 4 millsites, totalling 654 acres. On an upper tributary of Thunder Creek, it built a dam, laid over 1,400 feet of 20-inch pipe, installed a 36-inch Pelton wheel with a 500-foot lead. Using air compressors, the miners drilled a 660-foot tunnel. In 1913 the British Mining Company absorbed the Skagit Queen Consolidated Mining Company and received permission from the U. S. Forest Service to work the old Skagit Queen holdings. However, it proved to be as unlucky as the others and became broke, or nearly so.

Next to try its hand was the Thunder Creek Mining Company, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. It acquired the machinery left by its predecessors, including a power plant. This company, perhaps needless to say, was also remarkably unsuccessful. A forest ranger reported in 1920 that about all to be seen were two cabins, one of which had fallen down, the other filled with unused supplies. The remains of the power plant are still to be found on Thunder Creek (see photographs). Today, a number of patented claims still exist on both sides of Skagit Queen Creek and are indicated on the USFS map, "Mount Baker National Forest." [21]

Little wealth came out of the mines in the Skagit drainage. Those who made the most profit were the ones who sold their claims to someone else to develop and flounder upon. Yet these pioneer miners made known the country, built many of its early trails (some since little improved upon), gave continuing life to the concept of a road across these mountains, and provided the wealth of characters and folklore that a respectable mountain mass should have.

The Division of Mines and Geology, Washington State, surveyed metallic deposits and mines in the North Cascades in 1956. Those mines or claims that this report listed as being located in the Skagit drainage are extracted and shown below. The State report made no attempt to describe the conditions existing at the time it was prepared. It does not indicate, for example, if a mine was active or lay dormant:

Cascade River area

Alta. Approximately in Sec. 24, T35N, R13E. Headwaters of Boston Creek. Four claims: Alta, Montreal, Cerrico, and Helena Butte. A cross vein of the Boston vein. Arsenic, lead, silver, zinc.

Boston. Sec. 24, T35N, R13E, and Sec. 19, T35N, R14E. North side of Boston Basin. Trail from end of the Cascade River Road. Four patented claims. 1892, J. C. Rouse and G. L. Rowse. 1934, Adolph Behrens & Sons estate. 35-foot adit and 60-foot lower adit. Two tons shipped in 1890s. Lead, silver, zinc, gold, copper, arsenic.

Chicago. Sec. 24, T35N, R13E. Western extension of the Boston Claim. Four claims: Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Buffalo. Owner (no date): "Gilbert, Landry [Landre?], Landers & Co." Lead, silver, gold, zinc, arsenic.

Elsie. SE 1/4 of Sec. 24, T35N, R13E, in Boston Basin. Two miles of trail. Two claims: Elsie and Pochantes. 1951, O. W. Marshall, Sedro Woolley. 50-foot adit. Copper.

Midas. W /2 of Sec. 25 and E 1/2 of Sec. 26, T35N, R13E, on south side of North Fork, Cascade River. Five patented claims: Midas, Diamond, Saratoga, Pride of Seattle, Pride of Kildare. 1951, A. G. Mosier and William Soren, Sedro Woolley. Several crosscuts and drifts. Silver, lead, zinc, gold, copper.

Soldier Boy. SE 1/4 of Sec. 25 and NE /4 of Sec. 36, T35N, R13E, southeast of Midas group. Five patented claims: Soldier Boy, Gold Run, Golden Eagle, Mountain Chief, North Star. 1951, A. G. Mosier, Sedro Woolley. Adit. Gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper.

Johnsburg (or Johnsboro). Sec. 27 and Sec. 34, T35N, R13E. Four patented claims: Johnsburg, Lookout, Tarcoo Union and Prospectors Friend. 1892, Silver Queen Mining and Smelting Co. 1949-1954, Johnsburg Mining & Milling Co. 1954, Kaess Mining Co., Mount Vernon. 200-foot drift, 50-foot adit., 15-foot open cut. Cabin. Aerial tramway was under construction in 1955. Lead, silver, copper, zinc, gold.

Ella Bea & Flaim. NE /4 of NE 1/4 of Sec. 35, T35N, R13E, west of Soldier Boy Creek. Two claims: Ella Bea and Flaim. Open cuts. Copper.

Queen and Buchanan. NW 1/4 of SE 1/4 of Sec. 35, T35N, R13E. Southwest side of Cascade River. Trail. Two unpatented claims: Queen and Buchanan. 1939, Rupert Buchanan, Rockport. 80-foot adit. Copper, lead.

Eldorado. Sec. 15, T35N, R13E. Cascade district. Silver, gold, lead, zinc.

Sierra Grande. Sec. 19, T35N, R14E. Extension of Hartford claim. Cascade district. One claim. 1892, Ferguson, Grant, Getchell & Co. Lead, silver, gold.

Hartford. Sec. 19, T35N, R14E. Eastern extension of the Boston claim. 1892, George Sanger. Lead, silver, gold.

Friend. Sec. 26, T35N, R13E. Cascade district. 1934, Adolph Behrens & Sons Estate Silver, lead, zinc, gold.

Gold Run. SW 1/4 of Sec. 25, T35N, R13E. Boston Basin. William Soren, Sedro Woolley. Open cut and short adit. Gold.

Ventura. SW 1/4 of Sec. 36, T35N, R13E. Cascade district. Silver, lead, gold.

West Seattle. Sec. 24, T35N, R13E. Boston Basin, parallel to Boston group. Three claims: West Seattle, Mitus, Diamond. Lead, silver, zinc.

Kildare. Sec. 25, T35N, R13E. Cascade district. Two claims: Kildare and Harrison. A cross vein of the West Seattle. Lead, silver, zinc.

Granite. SW 1/4 of Sec. 34, T35N, R13E. Cascade district. Lead, silver.

Grand Republic. Sec. 1, T34N, R13E. Cascade district. Lead, silver.

Thunder Creek area.

Diablo. Approximately Sec. 23, T37N, R13E. Thunder Creek. Chromium.

North Coast. Approximately Sec. 29, T36N, R14E. About 1/2 mile uphill toward Park Creek Pass from the flat on east side of Thunder Creek. North Coast Mining and Milling Co. Gold, silver, copper, molybdenum.

Logan No. 2. W 1/2 of Sec. 23, T35N, R14E. One-quarter mile NW of Park Creek Pass. Adit several hundred feet long. Silver, lead, zinc, copper, gold.

Protection. Approximately NE corner of Sec. 16, T35N, R14E. One-quarter mile or less west of Thunder Creek. Mine and cabin. 500-foot adit. 1940, Protection Mining Co. Lead, zinc, copper.

Skagit Queen. Sec.'s 5, 6, 7, 8, 17, and 18, T35N, R14E. One mile by trail up Skagit Queen Creek. Thirty-two claims and four millsites patented. Three unpatented claims. 1912, Puget Sound, Chelan, and Spokane RE Co. 1952, British Mining Co. 670-foot crosscut edit that failed to reach ore. Silver, lead, copper, gold, molybdenum.

Willis & Everett. Sec. 12, T35N, R13E. Silver Basin, South Fork of Thunder Creek. Nine claims. 1909-26, Thunder Creek Mining Co.; 1918, Thunder Creek Transportation & Smelting Co.; 1918, Puget Sound, Chelan, & Spokane ER; 1952, British Mining Co. Three veins. Has produced. Silver, lead, gold.

Stenmo. At Park Creek Pass, head of Thunder Creek. Two claims. 1934, John Stenmo, Seattle. Lead, silver, zinc.

Thunder Creek (Dorothy). Approximately in Sec. 16, T35N, R14E, two miles west of Park Creek Pass. Branch trail from Thunder Creek trail. Six patented claims. Dorothy No. 1 to 6 and a mill-site. 1928-52, Thunder Creek Mining Co. A ton or so of ore said to be on the trail a mile or so below the mine. 425-foot adit and a 760-foot adit. Lead, silver, zinc, copper, gold.

Skagit River.

Alvard. N 1/2 of NE 1/4 of Sec. 21, T36N, R11E, between the highway and the railroad, about four miles above Marblemount (possibly outside park complex - map not clear). Reportedly leased by Skagit Talc, Inc. Several branch adits driven from a quarry face. Nickel.

McMyrl - Wilson. NE 1/4 of Sec. 21, T36N, R11E, 100 feet from highway. Nickel.

Other areas.

Nooksack. Ruth Mountain Pyrite. Sec.'s 17 and 20, T39N, R10E. Mount Baker district, Nooksack drainage. Trail from Ruth Creek road. Abandoned, 1949. Short crosscut adit on 15-foot vein. Said to be four veins. Iron, gold.

Sulphide Creek. Head of North Fork, Sulphide Creek, east side of Mt. Shuksan. 1916, Joe Morovitz. 1917, Mount Shuksan Molybdenite Mine and Milling Co. Charles Bagnell and Robert Johnson, Concrete. Molybdenum. [22]

Hundreds of claims, very few of them currently active operations, are still to be found in the Skagit drainage. In 1965, at the U. S. Senate hearings concerning the North Cascades, Ken St. Clair, representing the Silver Queen Mining Company, incorporated in 1962, testified. Mr. St. Clair said that the company had 119 stockholders and held 205 claims on 4,100 acres in the Cascade and Thunder districts. In 1968, the Sunday Olympian contained an article on Lowell Warner, "the last prospector." Warner told the reporter that he, his brother, and his sons had formed the Thunder Mountain Mines, Inc., in 1966. This outfit was said to hold 88 unpatented claims on 1,760 acres along Thunder Creek.

Near the head of the road on the North Fork of Cascade River today, the shiny metal sheds of the Value (formerly Diamond?) mines gleam through the trees. Signs warn the hiker not to enter the property, but from a distance one may observe miners going about their work. Obviously, the mining history of these districts has not yet come to a close. [23]

The Stehekin and Lake Chelan

From the beginning of mining in the North Cascades, miners could and did travel between the Cascade and Thunder districts on one hand and the Stehekin on the other through Cascade and Park Creek Passes. Records exist also of prospectors crawling up and over the mountains between the districts, particularly over Sawtooth Ridge above Horseshoe Basin. Generally, though, a distinction can be made between the routes and mines of the Skagit and those of the Stehekin, to the south. Most of the latter miners took their equipment and supplies to the Stehekin district on boats up the Columbia River and Lake Chelan. Although from 50 to 75 miles from the mines, the town of Chelan was very much a mining community in its infancy.

The early claims in the Stehekin area tended to concentrate on the upper Stehekin, particularly in the vicinity of Doubtful Lake and Horseshoe Basin, and on the North Fork of Bridge Creek. Although a Mr. McKee is said to have prospected in this area as early as 1875, the first real excitement did not reach the Stehekin until the late 1880s and early 1890s. [24]

George Rowse and John Rouse, traveling from the west over Cascade Pass in 1886, made the first major discovery when they located ores on the edge of Doubtful Lake. They named their principal claim the Quien Sabe. Other discoveries spread eastward when, in 1891, Albert Pershall and M. M. Kingman located the Blue Devil and Black Warrior in the dramatically beautiful Horseshoe Basin. More than gold was involved in these claims; the ores also contained silver and lead as well as traces of copper. Ledges of galena, containing these minerals, stretched along the mountains from Cascade Pass eastward twelve miles to the headwaters of Bridge Creek. Prospectors scrambled through this area establishing their claims. [25]

To uuravel the record of miners and mines, the rise and collapse of companies, and discoveries and developments would be an intricate task beyond the scope of this report. Instead, note will be made of some of the history, the claims existing in 1897, and conditions today.

The editor of the Chelan Leader paid two visits to the mines in Horseshoe Basin and at Doubtful Lake in 1892 and 1897. Back in his office after the first trip, he attempted to list the claims and their owners for his readers. He said that Bridge Creek and its North Fork each had about 20 good claims. However, he had not visited those areas. He had found the trail up the Stehekin as far as the Bridge Creek confluence to be quite good, but considerably less developed beyond that point to Horseshoe Basin. Apparently an athletic man, he had climbed to the upper basin and even to the font of the Sawtooth Ridge that encircles the basin.

In the lower basin, miners were busy drilling a tunnel at the Black Warrior - Blue Devil claims. Danald Ferguson had purchased these from Pershall and Kingman for $30,000. To the east lay the White Cap and Opal claims - J. F. Samson, Lloyd Pershall, and E. F. Christie. Beyond them were the Upper Ten and Last Chance, owned by Charles Johnson and William Gibson. The eastern end of the Last Chance claim reached the ridge lying between Horseshoe Basin and Park Creek. The Blue Devil, at the western end, climbed the divide between Horseshoe Basin and Doubtful Lake.

In the upper basin, he had found the Upperside, belonging to William Buzzard, H. C. Thomas, and Danald Ferguson. To the east was the Cutlus, also Ferguson's. Farther up, i.e. to the north, were the Black Bear ledge and the Tyee, both being Ferguson's. Above them lay Ferguson's Crescent claim. West of the Crescent was the Buzzard--Buzzard, Ferguson, and Thomas. The Bullion lay to the east of the Crescent, and belonged to E. B. and D. A. Vroman. Farther to the northeast, on a spur, stood the Idaho, owned by A. M. Pershall, Jack Empey, and Jack Marshall. The Waupaca lay to the northwest of the Crescent; and east of the Waupaca was the Lake View claim, both owned by Ferguson. North of them were the Summit, owned by Ferguson and Buzzard, and, to its east, the Whistler, belonging to C. H. Cole. Cole also owned the Grand Central No. 2, located north of the Whistler. At the very top of the crescent, along the sawteeth, Al Pershall and M. M. Kingman, the original discoverers of the Horseshoe Basin ores, owned the Red Mountain, Rusty, Horseshoe, and Davenport. On a spur to the south of these stood the Eclipse; but the editor did not say who owned it. East of the Davenport, J. F. Samson, Lloyd Pershall, and Ben F. Smith owned the Washington. Still farther to the east, reaching the Park Creek summit, William Henry and C. H. Cole had the Sawtooth claim.

The editor also noted several claims on the north side of the mountains, that is, in the Thunder Creek drainage: Minnesota, Montana, Iceland, Greenland, Gray Eagle, Golden Gate, Arizona, and Little Boy. And in the Cascade district, he recorded the Boston with its two tunnels (40 feet and 60 feet), and the Chicago and the Buffalo to the west of it. East of the Boston were the Sierra Grand and the Ontario. [26]

On his second trip, in 1897, the editor visited the mines of Doubtful Lake. He hiked up the Stehekin Valley, through which the government was then constructing a road in its lower reaches. He stopped at Lloyd Pershall's cabin, by then a miner's camp on the upper Stehekin, just below Horseshoe Basin. At the crossing of Horseshoe Creek, he "concluded then to try the celebrated one-pole bridge," which he maneuvered safely. A short distance beyond he crossed "the great rock slide and opposite the 'switchback' made by the McGraw [road] commissioners." Rain beat down on the editor without mercy. Soon he came to a couple of cabins. In the cabin that had a stone chimney, he found George L. Rowse, the discoverer of the Doubtful Lake area, and his nephew, George Taylor:

Mr. Rowse first came to Doubtful lake with his partner, Jack Rouse, in 1885 . . . they located several important claims . . . the Quien Sabe and extensions, and the Doubtful, a parallel ledge. The former has a ledge unbroken 25 feet in width, but its total width, broken by granite horses, is 150 feet.

He visited the tunnel at Quien Sabe, by crossing Doubtful Lake on a pole raft: "Arriving at 'Marmot' island, we climbed over the snow bridge . . . thence up an incline of 45 degrees . . . thence, through a hole in the snow [it was August], into the tunnel." [27]

Completing his inspection, the editor made a fast and uneventful trip back to Lake Chelan, passing through some of the continent's most superlative scenery without making a single thought known about the grandeur about him. That same year, he also described the Davenport mine:

A big galena proposition in Horseshoe Basin . . . 24 miles above Lake Chelan, has been bonded from Pershall & Kingman, the discoverers, by W. S. Norman and others, of Spokane. The Davenport has a 50-foot tunnel, and the ore assays variously at 60 to 90 ounces silver, $3 to $5 in gold, and 40 per cent lead. It is high up and hugs the glaciers. [28]

Another issue of the paper relayed activities on the North Fork of Bridge Creek:

But the most work is now being done by Seattle parties on the north fork of Bridge creek. * * * Wm. Keo and Joseph Lathrop are doing assessment work on the Minnesota . . . while the Seattle people who own the Tiger group, Silver Star, Dexter, Michigan, and the Anna Luna claims, are doing a large amount of development work on the Tiger and the Silver Star. They now have a tunnel of 40 feet on the Silver Star.

The work is under the management of Nelson Roos, an experienced miner--not one of the yachting cap and toothpick shoes variety, but a pusher from away back. [29]

Tragedy hit at Horseshoe Basin in the summer of 1899 when giant powder caps exploded in a blacksmith shop:

Rod Cameron was badly injured and Peter White received some ugly flesh wounds . . . The steamer Stehekin took Dr. Pierrot to the head of the lake [Chelan]. . . [Cameron's] wounds are not necessarily fatal, but his constitution being badly broken down by previous ill health makes against him . . . one of the men was sharpening drills, while the other had opened a box of caps to adjust one to a fuse, setting the box, open, on the bellows. A spark from the cedar charcoal set off the box, which contained about 100 caps. The explosion tore down the shop and blew the men clear outside it.

Dr. Pierrot was unable to save Cameron's life. He died August 24 and "was buried near the cabin at that place." No further notice of Cameron's grave has been found. The next summer, an explosion at the Isoletta mine on the upper Stehekin seriously injured Robert Pershall, one of Al's relatives. A horse carried Pershall out to Lake Chelan, where a steamer took him down to Chelan and recovery. [30]

Hodges' 1897 book and Kroll's 1899 map listed the following claims within or on the boundaries of the park complex:

On Stehekin River, Doubtful Lake, Horseshoe Basin, Etc.

Davenport (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Berlin (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Crescent (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Rowena (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Black Bear (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Cultus (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Doubtful (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Quien Sabe (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Queen of Sheba (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Blue Devil (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Black Warrior (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
White Cap (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Opal (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Little Boy (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Arizona (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Golden Gate (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Grey Eagle (Horseshoe Basin - Doubtful Lake)
Isoletta (Upper Stehekin)
Summit (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Belcher (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Grand Prize (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Marlin (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Howard (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Taylor (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Omoompo (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Dandy (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Excelsior (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Mary (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Favorite (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Mascot (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Falls (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Rowse (and Rowse Mill Site) (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Quien Sabe No. 2 (Doubtful Lake - Mix-Up Peak - Magic Mtn.)
Flamingo (Upper Stehekin)
Follies (Upper Stehekin)
Lake Shyall (Upper Stehekin)

North Fork, Bridge Creek

16 - 1
Silver Star
Anna Lima

At least two more developments concerning the claims at Doubtful Lake and Horseshoe Basin must be noticed. In 1901, with tongue in cheek, the Chelan Leader reported that Pershall and Kingman were busily erecting a "rawhide tramway" in Horseshoe Basin:

Instead of a steel cable and buckets they will use ropes and a sort of basket fashioned out of rawhides. The rope will run through pulleys at either end and the ore, laced up tightly in the rawhides, will slide down over the glaciers, instead of being suspended in the air . . . The descending load of ore will be used to carry up timbers in the ascending baskets.

On a firmer basis, the Baker Bulletin, in 1908, noted that the Cascade Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company had built a water-powered sawmill at Doubtful Lake and was piping water several hundred feet to supply air compressors. Industrialization was fast overtaking mining operations. Yet, here, as on the other side of the mountains, few companies were taking out prof its. [31]

Again quoting from the list of mines prepared by the Division of Mines and Geology, Washington State, 1956, the following were located in the Stehekin drainage. Added, within brackets, are gleanings from the Chelan Leader concerning some of these mines:

Quien Sabe. Near center of Sec. 31, T35N, R15E, on east side of Doubtful Lake Basin. Two patented claims: Quien Sabe and Quien Sabe No. 2. 250-foot drift. 1897, M. M. Kingman and Albert Pershall. Said to be a 60-foot vein. Lead, silver, gold, copper. [Discovered by Rouse and Rowse, 1885. Two cabins at lake outlet, 1897. George Rowse said that he invested $800 in development on the two claims, 1892-96. In 1901, Rowse organized the Doubtful Lake Mining Co. in Seattle.]

Flagstone. SW 1/4 of Sec. 30, T35N, R16E, on west side of the North Fork of Bridge Creek. Three short adits and an open cut. E. O. Blankenship and Guy Imas, Stehekin. Lead, silver, gold, zinc.

Doubtful. Sec. 31, T35N, R15E. South of Quien Sabe and north of Falls prospect. Two adits, 30 and 100 feet long. Lead, silver, copper, gold. [Located by Rouse and Rowse.]

Blankenship. Sec. 10, T33N, R16E, at mouth of Agnes Creek. Seven claims, 1 millsite. 1930, E. O. Blankenship. Copper.

Flamingo. Sec. 9, T34N, R15E. 1897, J. M. Scheuyeauelle, et al. Copper, gold, silver.

Lottie S. Adjoining the Flamingo prospect. 1897, J. M. Scheuyeauelle, et. al. Copper, silver.

Lake Shyall. NW 1/4 of Sec. 16, T34N, R15E, on Trapper Lake. 1897, J. M. Scheuyeaulle. Copper, gold, silver.

Defender. NE 1/4 of Sec. 28, T35N, R16E, on Grizzly Creek. Three claims. 1897, M. A. Allmandinger, Daniel Devore, and others. Copper, silver, lead.

Minneapolis. Sec. 32, T35N, Rl6E. One claim. 1897, William Keho and Joseph Lathrop. Gold, silver, copper.

Tiger. Sec. 4, T34N, R16E, on North Fork, Bridge Creek. Seven claims. 1897, E. S. Ingraham, H. O. Hollenbeck, Van Smith, Prof. Piper, George Young, and H. H. Carr. Several open cuts and a shallow drift. Gold, lead, copper, silver. [Developed by its Seattle owners, 1897.]

Davenport. Sec. 29, T35N, R15E, upper Horseshoe Basin. 1907-08, Cascade Copper Co. 1949, Horseshoe Basin Mining & Development Co. More than 500 feet of adit. One ton produced prior to 1901. Copper, silver, lead, gold. [1899, still being worked by Pershall and Kingman. 1901, they worked on an extension to claim. About 1903, Daveinports No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 said to have been owned by Horseshoe Basin Mining & Development Co., T. S. Burgoyne, President.]

Galena. Sec. 29, T35N, R15E, adjacent to Quien Sabe claim. Two claims. 1948, Kenneth and Keith Kingman, Chelan, and E. W. Davis, Los Angeles. 1949, Horseshoe Basin Mining & Development Co. Open cut 7 feet long. Lead, silver, zinc, gold, copper.

Texas Jack. Sec. 29, T35N, R15E, in upper Horseshoe Basin. One claim. 1901-08, Chelan Copper Co. Vein contained a 20-inch paystreak. Copper, silver.

Logan. N 1/2 of Sec. 26, T35N, R14E, 600 feet south of Park Creek Pass. One shaft, four adits: 25, 75, 150 and 190 feet long. Lead, zinc, copper, gold, silver.

Marlin. Near SE corner of Sec. 36, T35N, R14E. Northeast of Quien Sabe prospect. One patented claim. Copper, lead, gold.

Black Warrior. NE 1/4 of Sec. 32, T35N, R14E, at upper end of lower Horseshoe Basin. Three patented claims: Black Warrior, Blue Devil, Golden Gate; and three unpatented claims: Waterfall Nos.'s 1 and 2, and Campsite. 1905-46, Geo. B. Markel, Pa. 1946, Black Warrior Mining Co., Spokane. 250-foot crosscut, 563-foot drift. Copper, zinc, lead, silver, gold. [Located by M. M. Kingman and Al Pershall, 1891. In 1901, Robert Pershall planned to work on the White Cap and Opal claims, extensions of the Black Warrior and Blue Devil. Electric drills in use, 1902. Comfortable cabins, 1903. Said to have been owned by the Horseshoe Basin Mining & Development Co., about 1902-03. This outfit worked with the Cascade Gold and Copper Mining Co. to dig a tunnel during the winter of 1902-03, under 50 feet of snow.]

Horseshoe Basin. N 1/2 of Sec. 29, T35N, R15E, and NE 1/4 of Sec. 32, T35N, R15E. 32 unpatented claims and 3 millsites. 1946, Horseshoe Basin Mining & Development Co. 1,000-foot crosscut adit with about 1,000 feet of adits. Camp building and a 7,000-foot tram (1952). Lead, zinc, copper, silver, gold.

[An avalanche is said to have taken out this first tramway. A second one replaced it. This second is still standing, except that the winch is missing.]

Spokane Boy and Girl. Upper Horseshoe Basin. Two claims. W. E. White, Spokane. Two short adits. Copper, gold, silver, lead, zinc.

Twin Falls. Under the falls of Horseshoe Creek, below the Black Warrior Mining Co. property. One claim. 1949, Horseshoe Basin & Development Co., Bremerton. Copper.

Falls. Sec. 31, T35N, R15E, north of Rouse prospect. Two-foot vein. Open cut. Lead, silver, gold, copper.

Rouse. SW 1/4 of Sec. 31, T35N, R15E, on the small stream draining Doubtful Lake. One patented claim, one millsite. 1910, Cascade Consolidated Mining & Smelting Co. Lead, gold, silver, copper.

Cascade Consolidated. Sec. 31, T35N, R15E. 1934, Cascade Consolidated Mining & Smelting Co. Silver, lead, zinc, gold.

Panama No. 2. Upper Horseshoe Basin. Short adit and open cut. Lead, gold, silver, zinc.

Belcher. Sec. 36, T35N, R14E. Adjoins Marlin prospect on southeast. Lead, gold.

Ombompo. E 1/2 of Sec. 36, T35N, R14E, high on the divide between Doubtful Lake and Boston Basins. One patented claim. Three-foot vein. Gold, silver, lead.

Summit. NE 1/4 of Sec. 36, T35N, R14E. Adjoins NW corner of Marlin claim. One patented claim. 45-foot shaft. 1910, Cascade Consolidated Mining & Smelting Co. Lead, gold.

Homestead and Star. Sec. 5, T35N, R15E. Across the canyon from the Isoletta mine, Horseshoe Basin. 30-foot open cut. 1897, R. N. Pershall, M. M. Kingman, and Charles Johnson. Silver, gold.

Isoletta. Sec. 5, T34N, R15E. 215-foot adit. Produced 2,200 lbs., which returned $60 per ton. 1897, J. D. and R. N. Pershall, C. C. May, and Mrs. Hess. Silver, gold. [1899, Robert Pershall took a party of men here to work the mine. He planned to extend the tunnel to 100 feet. He was wounded in an explosion in July, that year.]

Silver Jack. NW 1/4 of Sec. 30, T35N, R16E, at head of North Fork, Bridge Creek. Small open cut. 1940, E. O. Blankenship, Stehekin. Lead, zinc, gold.

Tommy Jack. SE 1/4 of Sec. 30, T35N, R16E, a few hundred feet south of North Fork, Bridge Creek. 85-foot adit. E. O. Blankenship. Gold.

Franklin. Sec. 30, T35N, R15E. North of Quien Sabe prospect. Harry Frank, Tacoma, and Rouse and Rouse, Sedro Woolley. Lead, silver.

Billy Jack. SE 1/4 of Sec. 30, T35N, R16E, on southwest side of North Fork, Bridge Creek, near its head. 90-foot adit. 1940, E. O. Blankenship. Lead, zinc. [32]

A few other prospects remain to be noted from the historical sources. By 1897, according to the Chelan Leader, J. W. Taylor and George Turner had taken up claims at Coon Lake, near High Bridge on the Stehekin River. Two years later, C. A. Belfre had reorganized these claims, naming them the Silver Moon and the Crystal Star. The newspaper also mentioned the Butte mine (copper and silver) near the head of the main branch of Bridge Creek, 27 miles from Stehekin. The Butte Gold, Silver, & Copper Mining Company of Spokane owned this mine. Eight miles up the North Fork of Bridge Creek, Paul Flagstone owned the Minnesota mine. In 1899, this mine was said to have a 100-foot working tunnel that was considered to be unusually large, being 6 by 8 feet: "This mine is fitted out with car, turntable and blower complete, and has good cabins." Its nearby neighbors included the Annalena, Silver Star, Tiger, Michigan, Dexter, and Normanda. In October 1899, the cabin at the Minnesota burned to the ground. This was a serious loss, for snow was already too deep to resupply for the winter despite an effort to do so by Dan Devore. [33]

In 1969, two gentlemen of the Stehekin, Harry Buckner and Ray Courtney, made the following observations on mining. Harry Buckner: An early prospector in the Stehekin area was John W. Horton (mentioned again later). F. F. Keller improved upon Horton's claim. Still later, George Marble from Pennsylvania bought the claim from M. M. Kingman. The Pelton wheel at George Rowse's cabin and water-powered sawmill at Doubtful Lake is still there. The sawmill could be operated as late as 1912; but by today it has rotted away.

Ray Courtney, who knows the high country as well as anyone, made the following observations: The ruins of (Rowse's) the sawmill are to be found on the way up to Doubtful Lake. An old cabin stands in Horseshoe Basin. It is located almost directly across the stream from the Black Warrior mine. It has the appearance of age; its sheet-metal roof bears patches. Courtney associates the Ferguson name with it. (At one time Ferguson was one of the largest holders of claims in Horseshoe Basin.)

Courtney has spotted three tunnels at the base of a large wall on the west side of North Fork, Bridge Creek. The tunnels are damp and one would need lights to enter them. They are located approximately in Sections 13 and 24, T35N, R14E. At one time some old cabins stood there, but the US Forest Service eventually removed them. Courtney also described an old sulfide mine located near Fireweed Camp on upper Bridge Creek. One old cabin still stands there, near a tunnel, and the ruins of several others are still to be found. Some people know this structure as the Crocker cabin. [34]

Notes on Mining

Nearly all the mining techniques used in the West were to be found in the North Cascades. The simplest, and usually the earliest, technique was placer mining. The first prospectors in today's park, especially those on Ruby Creek in the 1880s, engaged in this type of activity. They searched for "free" or "placer" gold in sand or gravel bars along the creeks and on old stream beds. Implements included the gold pan, cradle, sluice box, and variations of some of these.

In parts of the North Cascades, the arrastra was used when quartz mining replaced placer techniques. But the evidence does not indicate that any of these mule-powered grinding machines operated within today's park boundaries. Neither hydraulic mining nor dredging seems to have taken place within the park. Very few stamp mills operated within the area, the companies finding it cheaper to haul the ores to outside mills. However, at the Diamond (Value) mine today, on the North Fork of Cascade Creek, a stamp mill stands near the roadhead. Pelton wheels, powered by a jet of water directed at cup-shaped buckets around the rim, were used in the various districts to power sawmills, etc. Remains of at least one of these wheels are still to be found, in the Doubtful Lake area. [35]


A great amount of prospecting and mining activity occurred in the park complex over the past ninety years. Starting on Ruby Creek in 1880 and lasting until today, miners and prospectors have searched for elusive riches on Thunder Creek, Cascade River, and in the Stehekin drainage. Compared to other gold rushes in the Far West, the North Cascades gave up no Eldorados. Only a few men made a little wealth, and most of this seems to have occurred when selling claims to optimistic buyers. A summary of gold and silver production in all of Chelan and Whatcom Counties between 1903 and 1917 shows the following highs and lows of production:

Chelan County
Whatcom County
   Silver1904-$14,3711910-$1 [36]

The State Geological Survey explained the difficulty when it said that Washington metalliferous ores are of base or refractory grade. Only a little free-milling ore and only a small amount of placer deposits are to be found. Miners have to depend on transportation and custom-smelting. To be profitable, a mine must be near a railroad or waterway, and its ore must be of high grade in order to pay the freight. [37]

The remote veins of the North Cascades, often hugging the glaciers, were not of high quality nor were they easy of access. Consequently, men's dreams grew; their riches did not. Nonetheless, mining in these mountains made at least two substantial contributions: It resulted in the thorough exploration of the country. It stimulated settlement in the more accessible parts of the region.

Evaluation and Recommendations

North Cascades National Park was established primarily because of its magnificent natural values. Mining, by its very nature, is hardly compatible with those values. However, mining did occur, and it is one of the themes of the history of the area--although history is but a subordinate element in the park story. The legislation establishing Ross Lake and Lake Chelan National Recreation Areas gives a little more recognition of the historical resources in them. Yet, these units are also essentially natural areas, and properly so.

Today, close to 2,000 acres of patented claims still exist in the park complex. Some of these are at present active operations. Other claims, such as those in Horseshoe Basin, saw activity as late as the 1950s. Throughout all the mining districts the visitor is struck by the amount of debris left behind--tin cans, 55-gallon drums, pipe, sheet metal, lumber, and assorted objects. Management, of course, plans to remove this unsightly material which neither enhances the primary values nor contributes to an appreciation of mining history. Scattered throughout this trash are artifacts that would be helpful in interpreting the mining era. These include everything from star drills to a power plant. These objects, where practicable, should be recovered and preserved in the park collections.

This report could not do justice to the history of the thousands of claims that exist, or even to the hundreds at which substantial development occurred. As a management tool, I recommend that a detailed study of mines and claims be initiated that would concentrate on identifying and evaluating them. Such a study could be of value in any future acquisitions and could have an effect on some of the specific recommendations that follow. It would also involve considerable time and back-packing.

Ruby Creek District

This area is now flooded by the waters of Ross Lake. While there is a possibility of some remains of mining activity still to be found at the head of Ruby Arm, just inside the eastern boundary of the recreation area, in essence the historical resources of this district have been lost. Recommend that the interpretation of mining in this area be told either at visitor centers or in publications.

Thunder Creek District

Miners' trash should be removed. The extensive developments in the Skagit Queen area are on land that is still patented. Recommend no investment in on-site interpretation or preservation for as long as this status exists. The ruins of an early power plant on the trail, upper Thunder Creek, should receive a modicum of preservation and interpretation. If possible, the machinery should be removed and reestablished at or near a visitor center. If left in place, rotted wood should be removed and visitor safety factors considered. Also, an identification marker could be installed. Although the trail on which the plant is located is a major one, leading from Thunder Creek to the Stehekin Valley, the number of hikers on it is as yet small.

North Fork, Cascade River

Here too is a number of patented claims, tunnels, and at least one mine at which activity is still carried out. Recommend that none of these be considered for interpretation or preservation at the present time. Recommend, however, that some mining interpretation be done along the road leading up to the foot of Cascade Pass: l. Soldier Boy Creek. Recommend an interpretive marker near the point where the creek crosses the road. Here one of Lieutenant Pierce's men found traces of gold in 1882. For better or worse, the War Department made this information available, thus encouraging prospecting in this area and giving continued life to the idea of a road over Cascade Pass. 2. A bunker adjacent to the road and just below the point where the road crosses from the south to the north bank of the North Fork. This massive, log structure, with its machinery and cables, will last many generations, if management wishes to retain it. (The writer has climbed over it twice and has made a number of inquiries concerning it, but makes no pretense of understanding either its function or manner of usage).

Doubtful Lake--Horseshoe Basin

Here too are many patented and unpatented claims, located in an area of magnificent scenery. The trail between Cascade Pass and Stehekin is relatively easy hiking and is popular with visitors. Horseshoe Basin itself is surely one of the royal jewels in a necklace of superb vistas. Although this area is within the National Park proper, and the sites are most likely patented, recommend that consideration be given to the preservation and interpretation of the Black Warrior mine and, if feasible, to the Doubtful tunnel.

The Doubtful tunnel is located near the outlet of the lake. Nearby are said to be the ruins of a Pelton wheel and of a sawmill. A determination of the mine's status (it is probably patented) and such factors as visitor safety would have to be made before developing any interpretation at the site. [38]

The Black Warrior mine in lower Horseshoe Basin is probably the best mining site in the park complex for illustrating the story of mining. It is, however, a patented claim and is located in the National Park proper. More extensive adits, such as the Horseshoe claim, lie in the upper basin, but are much more difficult of access. The trail to the Black Warrior is quite easy (wheeled vehicles once drove to the mine entrance).

The approach to the Black Warrior through the lower basin presents scenery in all directions that only a John Muir could adequately describe. A profusion of flowers, grasses, and bushes cover the ground. Ahead, in the upper basin, a large glacier clings to the rocky slopes. Above the blue ice the sharp fingers of the Sawtooth Ridge stab at the clouds. Behind, the vast, glacier-carved canyon of the Stehekin falls away, guarded by Glory Mountain and a dozen other peaks. As one approaches the mine, the roar and music of a dozen or more waterfalls cascading from the upper basin make themselves heard.

From the tunnel entrance, the view is overwhelming; one's gaze sweeps across the basin and down the Stehekin. Across the valley a wall of glacier-sprinkled peaks marks the boundaries of the drainage. Inside the entrance, the tunnel enlarges to form two "rooms," a blacksmith shop and a kitchen. The adit runs between the two back into the mountain a considerable distance before branching off to form a rough T. The iron rails of the hand-car track are still in place, although somewhat twisted. A short distance within the tunnel is another room carved in the rock that is thought to have stored equipment. Drills, benches, and mining equipment lie strewn around.

Although not shown as patented on some recent maps, the Black Warrior probably is, and it is thought to be owned by the Black Warrior Mining Company, Spokane. Its history is a long one for this area, being an operating mine in the 1890s. Even at that early time, it was a popular stop for climbers and hikers and has remained so.

Othen than its status, the Black Warrior is eminently suited for illuminating the mining history of the area and it provides the setting for the explorer who has nourished the thought of walking into an actual tunnel. With regard to the latter, a steel grill some distance back in the tunnel should be installed as a matter of visitor safety. Its total length is several hundred feet, much more than enough to experience the environment. Also, a large accumulation of trash would have to be removed from about the tunnel entrance, indeed, from much of the lower basin. The 1899 grave of Rod Cameron may be lost to history. If it should be found, it too should be preserved.

Near the Black Warrior is one end of the tramway cable that stretches high in the air, crossing the lower basin, and reaching the Horseshoe claims in the upper basin. Although it is dramatic evidence of the lengths men went to in order to extract the minerals of these high mountains, recommend that the cable be removed.

Upper Stehekin

The upper portion of the Stehekin Valley, through which the main trail runs, should also be considered in connection with the mining story. Rouse's Camp stood just below the junction of the river and Horseshoe Creek at the peak of mining activity. Traces of structures and abandoned equipment--some of it quite modern--litter this area today. Apparently, hikers still camp here. Whether or not it continues to be used as a campsite, I recommend that the site be cleared of its debris and that an identification marker concerning its original role be placed here.

Undoubtedly, additional mines, cabins, or ruins will come to light in the next few years. The great majority of these, because of their location, condition, or significance, will not prove pertinent in illustrating mining history. In those cases where it would seem advisable to remove any substantial physical evidence, recommend that such an action be preceded by an identification and evaluation of significance. This would provide the basis for whatever action is deemed best.

In conclusion, recommend at this time that the Black Warrior mine be entered in the National Register of Historic Places and that eventually it be preserved and interpreted. Recommend further that the general story of mining be told at visitor centers or in publications.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 11-Jun-2008