– New maps of the North Santiam Mining District reveal the tenacity of historic prospectors, as well as information that’s critical today for public safety and the protection of foresters and firefighters.
The district, which sits in Marion County within the Willamette National Forest, is one of five gold and base metal mining districts that stretch throughout the Cascade Range from the Columbia River to the California state line. First mineral claims in the district were made in the 1860s, with placer gold discovered there. But mining was no easy feat. “The mountains are rugged, with steep, densely forested terrain,” says Clark Niewendorp, industrial minerals geologist with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI). “Prospectors had to be extremely motivated to get in there.”
Though the area’s gold rush was short-lived, prospectors found veins that carried copper with zinc and lead. By the 1940s most mines were inactive, but mining resumed in 1977 with Shiny Rock Mining Corporation’s reopening of the Ruth Mine and development of several other claims. Mining in the district ceased in 1992 with the closure of the Ruth Mine.
Decades of activity left abandoned mine features, obscured over time by the same heavy vegetation that made historic access a challenge. But DOGAMI’s use of lidar, which provides accurate high-resolution images of the earth’s surface,