August 5, 1999
Highlights: Travel back in time over 100 years of mining history. Location: 9 miles southwest of Red River on Forest Road 486. No bridge across Red River at turnoff. Round-trip distance: 16 miles Difficulty: Steep and rocky. Four-wheel drive a necessity. Strenuous if hiked. Elevation: About 8,750-12,000 feet Maps: USDA Carson National Forest. Pick up brochures describing numbered historical locations at Red River Chamber of Commerce in Town Hall. Call (800) 348-6444.
Placer Creek Mining History Trail
Drive a four-wheeler (there are plenty for rent in Red River) up Placer Creek all the way to Goose Lake, and you get an overview of more than a century of mining in what was once a wide-open mining area.
From 1895 through the 1930s, these eight rugged miles of primitive road attracted prospectors, women who helped them, and mining companies, all searching for the elusive pot of gold. Each participant helped write the colorful history still in evidence today.
From the first stop, site of Myrtle Mill, to the assay office at site 10, which leads a half-mile down to Golden Calf Tunnel and the Golden Calf Mine, where the Oldham brothers ground ore from the mines in an arrastra which was powered by a 16-foot overshot water wheel. At each of the 13 sites, allow your imagination to fill in the unwritten stories.
Bob Prunty of Red River, who prepared the brochure in cooperation with the Forest Service and town of Red River, remembers meeting up with the legendary Oldham brothers when he and his brother hiked up to Goose Lake to fish.
The trail takes its name from the Spanish word "plaga" meaning place. Placer in mining terms indicates a waterborne or glacial deposit of gravel or sand containing heavy ore minerals, such as gold or platinum, which have been eroded from their original bedrock and concentrated as small particles that can be washed out.
Placer Creek is a small but fascinating part of Red River's wide-open mining history.
Sue B. Mann