I saw old autumn in the misty morn, stand shadowless like silence, listening to silence." Thomas Hood
Photo Courtesy: El_Nagual
The Stuart brothers set up the first sluice boxes at Gold Creek in May, 1862, but the first major gold strike in Montana was at Grasshopper Creek on July 18, 1862. Gold-seekers attracted to the area quickly exceeded the number of claims, and, of course, not everyone who came found gold.
The town of Bannack sprang up overnight to serve the miners. In the spring of 1863, a party of six men set out to look for gold "over on the Yellowstone." They found not gold, but Indians. Escaping their captors, the men were making their way back to Bannack when they camped on a spot about a quarter of a mile south of present day Virginia City. Prospecting for tobacco money, Bill Fairweather and Henry Edgar hit the great Alder Gulch gold strike on the evening of May 26, 1863.
They returned to Bannack with their grubstake, and a promise to keep the discovery a secret. Their grins and newfound wealth gave the secret away. Returning to Alder Gulch a few days later, they found half the town of Bannack following them. Excitement reached a fevered pitch as they reached the place of discovery on June 6, 1863. Miners quickly staked claims along the gulch, and Virginia City's first buildings were soon under construction. Nevada City grew at the same time.
Word of the discovery spread quickly and thousands soon flocked to Alder Gulch. Anyone with a gold pan could "mine" at first, but surface riches were soon exhausted, and more laborious placer techniques such as drift mining came into use. In July 1863, hard rock gold was discovered nearly eight miles above Virginia City, and the town of Summit soon grew. By fall of 1863, an estimated 10,000 people were in Alder Gulch and the towns of Junction, Adobetown, Nevada City, Central City, Virginia City, Highland, Pine Grove and Summit formed a nearly continuous settlement eleven miles long.
A huge population of gold seekers arrived briefly in Alder Gulch, some estimate as many as 30,000 in the spring of 1864. Congress created Montana Territory on May 26, 1864, exactly a year to the day after the discovery of Alder Gulch gold, and mainly because of it. But with a new gold strike at Last Chance Gulch (Helena) on July 14, 1864, hundreds left overnight, and by fall the population was back to about 5,000. The territorial capital moved from Bannack to Virginia City in 1865.
Through the later 1860's, placer claims were consolidated, and hydraulicking began to replace shaft and drift placer operations. A complex and expensive system of dams and ditches brought water from the mountains to hydraulic mines near Nevada City. High up Alder Gulch, several lucrative hardrock mines operated stamp mills. Four Chilean mills, brought at tremendous labor over the Bozeman trail, operated at Union City. But the hard-rock gold was richest near the surface, and ore values lessened as the shafts deepened. After the territorial capital moved to Helena in 1875, Virginia City slowly lost population. Hydraulic mining and several large hard-rock mines continued to operate into the early 1890's.
In 1897, the Conrey Placer Mining Co. began using the new placer mining technology of dredging. Four huge dredges were eventually built and the installation of high voltage power lines, brought in to power the dredges, made electrical history in Alder Gulch. Dredging continues into the 1930's. At the beginning of World War II, however, gold was declared a "nonessential mineral," and dynamiting was discontinued. While a few small placer and hard rock operations continue even today, Virginia City's economy has depended upon tourism since the beginning of the Bovey's restoration efforts in the 1940's.
The area near Virginia and Nevada Cities in Alder Gulch held the richest placer gold deposits in Montana, and some say richer than anywhere on earth. According to research done in the 1920's, over one hundred million dollars worth of gold had been removed from the gulch. At today's prices, Alder Gulch has yielded over two and a half billion dollars worth of gold.
Driving the International Selkirk Loop is spectacular experience. The weather was ideal, mid 60's, sunshine and a light breeze to stir the golden quaking aspen.
North America's only multi-country scenic loop; designated one of the top ten secenic destinations in the Northern Rockies, the 280 mile international scenic byway winds around the base of the Selkirk Mountains through Idaho and Washington in the United States and British Columbia, Canada. The fall foliage was incredible.
A walk along the River Trail in Kaslo, British Columbia offers breath-taking photo opportunities and inter-action with wildlife and water fowl.
The section of road between Nelson, British Columbia and Ainsworth Hot Springs is one jaw-dropping vista after another.
Kootenay Lake is the largest natural lake in the Kootenay Rockies region and is the third largest lake in British Columbia. Steep, ghostly forested slopes flank the ninety mile long lake that many people call th "Norweigian Fjords of North America".
Famous for its fall foliage, the Selkirk Loop offered a vivid display.
The last rose of summer. Magnificent in their color and delicacy, roses graced cottage gardens and roadside ditches, their sweet fragrance heavy in the morning air.
I always wish our trip was longer. If you travel the loop, allow several days to fully explore and experience this awesome area.
The Selkirk Mountains are the last place in the Lower forty-eight states where Woodland Caribou still live.
A "bird's eye" view of BOB (Big Orange Bridge) at Nelson, Britich Columbia, Canada.
Do you have gold fever?
Do you want your own claim in NW Montana?
Please visit the sites below for full information on the claims for sale.
By: J.M. West
Bureau of Mines publication, Information Circular 8517
At least twice as much gravel can be worked per day with the rocker as with the pan. The rocker or cradle, as it is sometimes called, must be manipulated carefully to prevent loss of fine gold. With the rocker, the manual labor of washing is less strenuous, but whether panning or rocking, the same method is used for excavating the gravel.
The rocker, like the pan, is used extensively in small-scale placer work, in sampling, and for washing sluice concentrates and material cleaned by hand from bedrock in other placer operations. One to three cubic yards, bank measure, can be dug and washed in a rocker per man-shift, depending upon the distance the gravel or water has to be carried, the character of the gravel, and the size of the rocker. Rockers are usually homemade and display a variety of designs. A favorite design consists essentially of a combination washing box and screen, a canvas or carpet apron under the screen, a short sluice with two or more riffles, and rockers under the sluice. The bottom of the washing box consists of sheet metal with holes about 1/2 inch in diameter punched in it, or a l/2-inch-mesh screen can be used. Dimensions shown are satisfactory but variations are possible. The bottom of the rocker should be made of a single wide, smooth board, which will greatly facilitate cleanups. The materials for building a rocker cost only a few dollars, depending mainly upon the source of lumber.
After being dampened, the gravel is placed in the box, one or two shovelfuls at a time. Water is then poured on the gravel while the rocker is swayed back and forth. The water usually is dipped up in a simple long-handled dipper made by nailing a tin can to the end of a stick. A small stream from a pipe or hose may be used if available. The gravel is washed clean in the box, and the oversize material is inspected for nuggets, then dumped out. The undersize material goes over the apron, where most of the gold is caught. Care should be taken that not too much water is poured on at one time, as some of the gold may be flushed out. The riffles stop any gold that gets over the apron. In regular mining work, the rocker is cleaned up after every 2 to 3 hours, or oftener when rich ground is worked and gold begins to show on the apron or in the riffles. In cleaning up after a run, water is poured through while the washer is gently rocked, and the top surface sand and dirt are washed away.
Then the apron is dumped into a pan. The material back of the riffles in the sluice is taken up by a flat scoop, placed at the head of the sluice, and washed down gently once or twice with clear water. The gold remains behind on the boards, from which it is scraped up and put into the pan with the concentrate from the apron. The few colors left in the sluice will be caught with the next run. The concentrate is cleaned in the pan.
Skillful manipulation of the rocker and a careful cleanup permit recovery of nearly all the gold. Violent rocking should be avoided, so that gold will not splash out of the apron or over the riffles. The sand behind the riffles should be stirred occasionally, if it shows a tendency to pack hard, to prevent loss of gold. If the gravel is very clayey it may be necessary to soak it for some hours in a tub of water before rocking it.
Where water is scarce, two small reservoirs are constructed, one in front and the other to the rear of the rocker. The reservoir at the front serves as a settling basin. The overflow drains back to the one at the rear, and the water is used over again.
The capacity of rockers may be increased by using power drives. Such a device might be rocked by an eccentric arm at the rate of approximately forty 6-inch strokes per minute. The capacity of the typical machine with two men working is 1 cubic yard per hour. Where gravel is free from clay, the capacity may be as great as 3 cubic yards per hour. The cost of the mechanized rocker and a secondhand engine for driving it is estimated at $400.
Interested in building your own rocker box - these plans and tips may be useful.
This plan is reprinted from Information Circular 6786, "Placer Mining in the Western United States" by E. D. Gardener and C. H. Johnson. It was published by the US Bureau of Mines in September, 1934
More gravel can be handled per man-day by rocking, or cradling as it is sometimes called, than by panning. Moreover, the manual labor of washing a cubic yard is less. The same method of excavating the gravel is used whether it is panned or rocked. The rocker, like the pan, is used extensively not only in small-scale placer work but also in sampling and for washing sluice concentrates and material cleaned by hand from bedrock in other placer operations.
One to three cubic yards, bank measure, can be dug and washed in a rocker per man-shift, depending upon the distance the gravel or water has to be carried, the character of the gravel, and the size of the rocker. Rockers usually are homemade and have a variety of designs. A favorite design in the Western States consists essentially of a combination washing box and screen, a canvas or carpet apron under the screen, a short sluice with two or more riffles, and rockers under the sluice. The bottom of the washing box consists of sheet metal with holes about one half inch in diameter punched in it. A rocker in use at Greatervllle, Arlz., was 3 feet 4 inches long and 1 foot 9 inches wide on the inside and had a slope of 5 inches. The screen box was 6 inches deep and 20 inches square inside and had a bottom of sheet iron with 1/4- to 1/2- inch holes punched about 2 inches apart. The baffle was 28 inches long and consisted of a piece of canvas. A single riffle 3/4 inch high was used at the end of the rocker. Figure 3 is a drawing of a prospector's rocker made by W. B. Young of Tucson, Ariz. The bottom of a rocker should be made of a single wide board, if one can be obtained, and planed smooth. This will greatly facilitate cleanups. The cost of building rockers ranges from $5 to $15, depending mainly upon the cost of lumber.
After being dampened the gravel is placed in the box l or 2 shovelfuls at a time. Water is then poured on the gravel while the rocker is swayed back and forth. The water usually is dipped up in a long-handled dipper made by nailing a tin can to the end of a stick. A small stream from a pipe or hose may be used if available. The gravel is washed clean in the box and the oversize inspected for nuggets and dumped out. The undersize goes over the apron, where most of the gold is caught. Care should be taken that too much water is not poured on at one time, as some of the gold may be flushed out. The riffles stop any gold that gets over the apron. In regular mining work the rocker is cleaned up after every 2 or 3 hours, or oftener when rich ground is worked, if gold begins to show on the apron or in the riffles. In cleaning up after a run, water is poured through while the washer is gently rocked; the top sand and dirt are washed away. Then the apron is dumped into a pan. The material back of the riffles in the sluice is taken up by a flat scoop, placed at the head of the sluice, and washed down gently once or twice with clear water. The gold remains behind on the boards, whence it is scraped up and put into the pan with the concentrate from the apron. The few colors left in the sluice are caught with the next run. The concentrate is cleaned in the pan.
With skillful manipulation of the rocker and a careful clean-up nearly all the gold is recovered. Violent rocking is avoided so that gold will not splash out of the apron or over the riffles. The sand behind the riffles should be stirred occasionally, if it shows a tendency to pack hard, to prevent loss of gold. If the gravel is very clayey it may be necessary to soak it for some hours in a tub of water before rocking it.
When water is scarce two small reservoirs are constructed, one in front and the other in the rear of the rocker. The reservoir at the front serves as a settling basin; the overflow goes to the one at the rear where the water is used over again.
Power rockers,- The capacity of rockers may be increased by using power drives. The use of such a machine was illustrated by the operation Of George Graves in the Lynn district, Eureka County, Nev., during the summer of 1932. The rocker was 49 inches long, 27 inches wide at the top, and 21 inches wide at the bottom. It was 24 inches high in front and 21 inches at the rear. The screen had 5/8-inch round holes. The gold was caught on three aprons of canvas and wood. Riffles of 1/2- by 1/4-inch wooden strips were used on the aprons. The undersize from the screen passed over each apron in turn. Nearly all the gold was caught on the first apron. The slope of the aprons was 3 inches to the foot.
The device was rocked by an eccentric arm at the rate of forty 6-inch strokes per minute. The capacity of the machine with two men working was 1 cubic yard per hour. Where gravel was free of clay the capacity was said to be as great as 3 cubic yards per hour. The cost of the rocker and the engine for driving it was $160. At $4 per 8-hour shift and 1 cubic yard per hour the labor cost of washing the gravel would be $1 per cubic yard.
A number of small machines patterned more or less after the power rocker are on the market. They usually are built of iron or steel and driven by small gasoline engines. Although of various designs they generally consist of a trommel or a shaking screen to remove coarse material, a short shaking sluice to save the gold, and a pump to circulate the water. Some of them contain a settling tank from which the solids are removed by a rake or drag. These machines have an advertised capacity of 1/2 to 2 1/2 cubic yards per hour and cost $225 to $700. No operating data are available.
Plans page 2 of 2
I am always heartened when I read of people that demonstrate their commitment to protecting the environment. Many thanks to Mark Boyar and all the volunteers that made this happen.
Published on Campaign for America's Wilderness (http://www.leaveitwild.org)
As the river swirls around the rock where he is perched, Mark Boyar looks perfectly at home.
After more than two decades working to polish this recreational jewel, for Boyar the valley along the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River has become his second home, even a member of his family.
"It really is my oldest child, " he said.
Some 22,000 acres of this lowland river valley, with the Pratt and the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie rivers running through, are proposed for permanent protection by Congress. The forest would be added to the existing Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, created in 1976, and the two rivers would gain protection from dams or other development under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
And if there's any one person who has helped get the valley the national attention many believe it deserves, it's Boyar, the Man of the Middle Fork.
"I would call him the godfather. He has always been the one who has carried the ball. The Middle Fork never would have gotten to the place where it is without him," said Wade Holden of Friends of the Trail, a nonprofit cleanup business based near North Bend. Holden spent years hauling trash out of the Middle Fork Valley, a legacy of decades of illegal dumping.
Rick McGuire of the Alpine Lakes Protection Society, a nonprofit conservation group, met Boyar in the 1990s when the two were taking turns with other volunteers camping out for about a month by pieces of a wooden bridge to be built across the Middle Fork.
Before construction got under way, they had to keep watch on the pieces to make sure hooligans didn't steal or burn them. McGuire fondly remembers the fellowship through the long, rainy days and nights of the stakeout - and the dedication he grew to know in Boyar.
"He has kept his focus," McGuire said. "Some people start to work in one place, then work in another. He has not spread himself too thin or burned out - he has specialized on the Middle Fork. It is in his DNA.
"A lot of people have been involved, some more than others, but he has been the glue that has kept it all together, the sun around which everyone has revolved."
Boyar, 52, a Stanford grad in political science and former product manager for 24 years with a medical-software company, figures he has probably put 10 to 20 volunteer hours a week into the Middle Fork since 1991.
"It's a place where I thought I could make a difference," said Boyar, 52. "It was small enough I could get to know it and work hard at it. The more I came here, the more I learned, and after all those years it's very personal."
"I heard about this valley," Boyer said "It was pretty clear, though, the place was a bit of a mess. It was a forest valley next to an urban valley, and the wild ones had moved in. Yet it could have been a national park if it was anywhere else in the country."
The first step in the rehab effort involved closing off the stub-end roads to the river to shut down illegal dumping. Then came the cleanup of trash, and a methodical transformation of the place, acre by acre. "The idea was, you would get the lawful use going, and that would drive out the wild ones and turn the Middle Fork around," Boyar said.
After two summers spent putting up the Middle Fork bridge over the river, "we realized we needed to take the whole valley back," he said. "We needed a much-broader effort."
Working with the Mountains to Sound Greenway, Boyar and others put together a management plan for the area, including restrooms, a new campground and an improved access road.
Today the Mid Fork is the land of the station wagon, of little kids fishing with their families along the river.
It's a place Boyar enjoys as much as anyone, with two kids of his own, ages 7 and 12.
"There aren't many places where you can bike with the kids and do day hikes off the side roads," said Boyar, who is spending his family's summer vacation doing exactly that. He also enjoys bushwhacks way off the trails with his buddies, often by the light of the moon.
He savors the pleasures of knowing one place well: learning when the native bleeding hearts are in bloom; when the salmon berries are fat; where the hummingbirds are abuzz and the cottonwood buds have just broken, perfuming the air in spring. "It's so gentle," he said of this lowland forest. "And so quiet."
"Every time I turn a corner, I am stunned all over again; there is nothing else like it," Boyar said on a recent morning as he walked along the Middle Fork.
Wilderness designation, he said, would be a capstone for the more than 20 years of effort to protect and preserve this valley. "It's stewardship, for the long term," Boyar said. "And it's recognition, too, of the national significance of this treasure."
Published on Campaign for America's Wilderness (http://www.leaveitwild.org)