The nights are getting noticeably colder. Jupiter, Mars, the crescent moon, Venus, and Saturn are in the morning sky now.”
[Russell Towle's journal]
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2002 08:51:11 -0800
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Rawhide Mine
On Sunday, September 8, my wife Gay and I took a ramble down to the Rawhide Mine, near the confluence of Blue Canyon and the North Fork of the North Fork of the American. The day had dawned cool and clear. We waited until past one o'clock to start, driving out Casa Loma Road to the Euchre Bar trailhead near Iron Point, parking, and walking down the road to the mine.
So far, no construction is visible on the private parcel above Iron Point, where Placer County permitted residential use on the parcel, although it had a special "timber preserve" non-residential zoning. With some luck, we will not have to endure the sight of someone lording it over the North Fork Canyon, braying to the world that he is to the manor born. That is, the house at least could be set back into the trees, and not very drastically impact this remarkable and historic viewshed.
The Rawhide is a hard-rock gold mine in quartz veins which intruded steeply-dipping slates of the Shoo Fly Complex. There is a system of such gold-bearing quartz veins running more or less parallel to the northward strike of the steep strata of the Shoo Fly, and thus also more or less parallel to the Melones Fault Zone to the west, which fault divides the serpentine associated with that fault zone from the Shoo Fly rocks. The mine was active just prior to World War II, and its tailings used to color the North Fork a light, baby-poop yellow (I have seen photographs, taken in Green Valley), all the way down to Auburn. I hear that State water people actually hiked up the river to find the source of the pollution, around 1940, and forced the mine to stop releasing the muck directly into the river. The story may or may not be true.
|The clear-cut patches on Sawtooth Ridge. This prominent|
ridge separates the North Fork of the North Fork of the
American River from the North Fork "proper".
In about a mile, one reaches a gate, kept locked and closed, and carefully bulwarked to exclude all vehicles. In theory the public has a right to hike this road, but no signs inform one of that. The Rawhide road crosses Tahoe National Forest lands, and as I understand it, it is a kind of quid pro quo: the mine owners get to use and maintain the road, but the public gets to walk on it. At any rate. Walking along, we saw quite a few "No Trespassing" signs. In another mile we reached the principal mine buildings. Finally the horrid clearcuts were out of view.
There used to be an old fellow named Louie, who would sit at the bar at the Monte Vista Inn night after night in the '70s, and who had been the caretaker at the Rawhide, back in the 1950s. In the 1956 flood his family was swept away before his eyes just as they crossed the bridge across Blue Canyon.
Louie told me that the Rawhide was driven into steep slates which continually caved in, and that a huge room, inside Sawtooth Ridge, developed over time, with a ceiling "300 feet" high. I have never been up to the actual mine site, and cannot vouch for this information. Louie also said that the gold was often found in pure masses between the layers of slate, instead of being bound and disseminated in quartz.
|California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum)|
|Spot the frog?|
We kept a leisurely pace climbing back up the road, and it was late enough in the day that we were in shade for much of the way, which was good. The views of the end of Sawtooth Ridge, and of nearby parts of the main North Fork canyon, are quite nice. Reaching the car, we paused at Iron Point to photograph Giant Gap, which looks so awesome, so magical and mystical, when shadows grow long, late in the day.
Such was a visit to the Rawhide Mine.