We were actually on our way back from exploring another abandoned mine (I haven’t posted the video on that one yet), when I happened to glance over and noticed that distinctive look of the waste rock piles created by miners tunneling into the side of a hill to form an adit... We were tired after a long day and I was absolutely convinced that this adit would be eroded shut given the terrain we were in, but one must always check these things to be sure. And this site is an example of why - lo and behold, to my astonishment, the adit was indeed open!
An adit that punches in through hard rock will have a better chance of remaining open for a while unless it is in a crumbly rock that sloughs off and blocks the portal. However, an adit that is run in through dirt almost always quickly erodes shut as the loose material slides down and blocks the entrance. This is particularly the case in a forest setting where you have lots of leaves and pine needles helping to build up the soil and also rain and melting snow to assist in washing debris down in front of the portal.
Sometimes viewers complain that I don’t provide more details on the history of an abandoned mine or on the gold production of a mine. That is understandable as such details would be interesting. However, what they don’t understand is that there are literally tens of thousands of abandoned mines scattered across California, Nevada, Oregon and the other western states. Many of these abandoned mines, especially those that operated prior to the 20th century, simply have no surviving documentation on them. We have located dozens and dozens of mines that appear on no maps and have no documentation at all on them (and, trust me, we dig deep in researching these).
The miners that worked these mines are long departed from this world and their friends and relatives never knew the exact location or didn’t care enough to pass on such information. Written records, if they ever existed, are lost or discarded… After a generation or two, these mines are lost and it is just local wildlife that knows of their existence or a fortunate individual that happens to stumble across them.
Consider this mine, for instance, which is a complete mystery… You probably had a handful of miners (at most) living here in the forest that worked this site for a few years (at the very most) before the veins petered out. Given the simplicity of the workings, they wouldn’t have had maps. And, don’t forget, that federal income tax in the United States was not created until 1913 (One could observe that our country seemed to do alright without income taxes and the large government that is funded by those income taxes). So, tax records are a potential source of information on a contemporary mine, but would not be for an older mine. The miners may have had a verbal agreement over the sharing of the gold they produced, which would be another area where no written records would exist. Really, it would be quite common for a mine like this to only have written records for the purchase of supplies (dynamite, food, etc.) in the form of receipts and claim documents. No one would have bothered to keep receipts for long and they wouldn’t have conveyed any information about the mine anyway. And, as anyone that has ever visited a BLM office to file a claim can tell you, the records on mining claims are notoriously vague, often entered incorrectly, often have missing sections (this is particularly true of older claim documents), etc. And, sometimes, a mine is so distant and remote, that the miner(s) working there wouldn’t even have bothered with filing a claim.
Do you see how these circumstances work together to erase abandoned mines from history?
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You can see the gear that I use for mine exploring here: https://bit.ly/2wqcBDD
You can click here for my full playlist of abandoned mines: https://goo.gl/TEKq9L
Thanks for watching!
Growing up in California’s “Gold Rush Country” made it easy to take all of the history around us for granted. However, abandoned mine sites have a lot working against them – nature, vandals, scrappers and various government agencies… The old prospectors and miners that used to roam our lonely mountains and toil away deep underground are disappearing quickly as well.
These losses finally caught our attention and we felt compelled to make an effort to document as many of the ghost towns and abandoned mines that we could before that colorful niche of our history is gone forever.
I hope you’ll join us on these adventures!