Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Black Hills mining II

I love stumbling across relics of early Black Hills history. This one literally took my breath away as I hiked up a hill and a huge mine opened up in front of me. (Okay, maybe it was partly that I'm not in shape for hiking in the mountains, but work with me here.)


This mine is southwest of Deerfield Lake on Ditch Creek Road (also known as Forest Service #291) at the junction with FS #385. It is three miles from the pavement of FS#308. GPS coordinates are N43*58.598' W103*50.843'

I do not know the actual name of this mine. I call it the "triple mine" because of the three huge main shafts entering the mountain. If anyone knows the real name of the place, please comment here.

How big are those shafts? Click on the photo above to enlarge it and look for the people on the far left.

I've never felt so much like Indiana Jones exploring long lost catacombs as I did here. That's me in the two photos below. I felt that to portray the hugeness of the place I had to include a human figure for scale.



It's dark in the mine, but entering slowly and allowing your eyes to adjust will provide enough vision to see that the gigantic tunnels don't really lead too far into the mountain. They all join together inside within view of the openings.

For photographing these kind of places, I think flash usually ruins the feeling. So instead I use a tripod and very long exposures. The tripod also allows using a self-timer for these kind of shots if you haven't brought along a buddy/model.

Another fairly accessible abandoned mine is in the Needles area of Custer State Park. Parking at the small dirt turnout on the Needles Highway just southeast of the Cathedral Spires Trailhead will allow you to a hike along the old road that leads to this mine perched on the mountainside. It is not visible from the paved road. In fact, I had no idea it was there until I saw it in a video taken from a helicopter. I was surprised at how easy it was to find when I went looking.


There is quite a bit of wooden structure left to this mine, including this chute that I'm looking straight up.


If you saw the "Man vs. Wild" TV show episode last year with Bear Grylls wandering through the Black Hills and Badlands, you saw him climb into a shaft at this mine.

UPDATE 11/15/09 - Reader Jonathan asked for better directions to the mine above, so hopefully this will help. Sorry I don't have GPS coordinates for it and I'm four hours away, so can't easily go get them. The hike from the gated dirt road parking spot to the mine is fairly short, but steep. I would guess it's about three-fourths of a mile.


I wouldn't advise climbing down or up into any old mine shafts. You just never know how stable the rock that's been blasted and dug will be. In the big "triple mine" above, it's fairly obvious that the ceiling isn't going to collapse on you. At most other places, I don't trust anything, so I stay on the outside and away from edges of deep holes.

Also watch for critters that may have taken up residence in these handy man-made dens. A big flashlight will help you see into even the most sturdy tunnels before approaching a blind corner.

23 comments:

Shanna said...

I don't know the true name for the "triple mine" but I do know it was a silicone mine. I think there is an official name for it but I'll have to find out. Every year when I visit this mine, I see new rocks on the floor (I presume from the ceiling).

Chad Coppess said...

Hmmm, maybe the ceiling isn't as safe as I thought. Thanks for the info Shanna. If you do find the name, let us know.

theueckers said...

I've got a place just east of here.
We've always called it Silica Mine 'cause I think that's what it was.
Ther is a geocache placed near the entrance. That's how I first found it. www.geocaching.com

Chad Coppess said...

Silica Mine it is from now on until someone tells me different! Geocaching is a lot of fun, I've done quite a bit.

Jonathan said...

Hello, do you have any better directions to get to the second mine shown on your page, I beleive I have found the road on google maps but am not 100% sure, also how long did it take to hike from the road to the mine,
thank you,
Jonathan

Chad Coppess said...

Hi Jonathan,
I put a Google Earth satellite image within the post that should help you find the mine in the Needles.
Thanks for reading!

Jonathan said...

Thank you Chad,
Thats where I assumed it was with you previous directions but I wanted to make sure, Very awesome website and I look forward to reading more of your blogs,
Jonathan

Rick Dockter said...

Exploring your great website Chad and came across this mine post. I've been there (east of the Needles) several times. Great place to climb around and views. I do not recommend going into it without proper knowledge/gear as there is a spot one could crawl and go underground. Lots of mica including black mice in this area among other interesting finds.

Chad Coppess said...

Thanks for the info Rick. Yeah, I'm not much for climbing down into dark mine tunnels, but I do like hiking around the outside or walking in ones that look safe enough.

Anonymous said...

The Triple mines or "Silica Sands" as iv'e known it my entire life. I was told the Shafts went completly through the Hill.. If you follow FSR 385 around the to the back side of the hill you will find a ATV trail that will take you up to another pair of entrances to the mine

Chad Coppess said...

That sounds pretty interesting. Thanks for the info, I'll have to check that out next time I'm in the area.

Iliterate Engeneer said...

Hi, just wanted to let you know that it is the Black Hills Silica Sand Co. Mine, and yes, it was just a lowly Silica mine. If the info I've got is any indication, it's been closed since at least the seventies.

FYI, those aren't shafts but rather adits, since they go in horizontally.

Stay safe, let people know where you're going, and if you stop seeing beer cans, it's usually time to turn back. And don't pick up old beer cans, please, because they're often the only decent indicator of how far people have gone in without leaving a body behind...

Benjamin Carstens said...

The sand mine has been reclaimed, and the rooms do not exist anymore. It is just a large pit now. Sad to see such a spectacular mine disappear!

Anonymous said...

Just came across this site so I thought I would give some information. I have been visiting these mines since 1972 when we first discovered them while snowmobiling. Since then one of my good friends that I ATV with gave our group the entire story and history. He worked these mines when he was young and recounted many stories. There are 2 mines on the rear but they do not connect with the 3 on the south side. The rear mines are completely unsafe to enter due to unstable ceiling material. That is why he refused to work in those years ago. Silica sand was mined, but due to the low quality and the price of transportation business declined. California had a better quality of sand and was closer to the end users. Be advised that the trail up the mountain to he rear shafts is a non-motorized vehicle path and pretty rough

Chad Coppess said...

Thanks for the update!

Anonymous said...

Maybe there is still some life in the old mine.Came across this. I Saw a story on KOTA the other night so I did some gooleing to see if it was the same mine. I think it is. Google South Dakota Proppants. I don't think they mine for frac sand in California. Maybe they had multiple uses for the sand.

Anonymous said...

So is the sand mine still there?

Chad Coppess said...

Yes it is. I haven't been there in a while, but did see some recent photos of it.

Rustylee said...

The mine in the Needles area is called the November Mine. Not hard to find. If traveling from Sylvan Lake on the Needles Highway, after you pass the Cathedral Spires Trailhead, watch for the trail that goes up the hill to the right. No vehicles allowed on that trail. Follow the trail up and if you are confused about the location, go to the end of the flat spot at the top of the grade and look back at the rock face. There it is!

Dakota said...

Entering an old mine is always a dangerous thing. I worked for almost 10 years at the Homestake Gold mine underground operations and rock can let go at any time. Before every shift we used a steel bar to tap the rock in the "Back" (roof) and it should ring solid, if it rings hollow with a thud it is considered loose and not to be trusted at all. Some of the pictures I saw would make me very cautious about the condition of the rock. Many miners have been killed by a piece of loose coming in for no apparent reason. It will usually make a pop as it falls .... too late at that point.

Anonymous said...

Hello, A the mine(shafts) still there? I traveled down Ditch Creek (3 miles) and to the right was a small concrete bridge. Crossed it, there was nothing there but the start of an atv trail and a gravel road(unmarked (fs 385)maybe?) Any info is appreciated - Thanks

Chad Coppess said...

Yes they are. From that point you just need to go uphill on the ATV trail roughly 100 yards and you will see them.

Ethan Knobloch said...

We went today to this mine and it as been blasted shut. However there is a really cool little building there and a giant surface crevice which is fun to walk around in!