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.