Even with all the historical data out there that is available to miners and prospectors, in the guise of mineral resource bulletins, books, old mining magazines, newspaper clippings and other references, there is still a lot that we don’t know about Oregon’s gold mining history and there are still quite a few places where gold was recovered in the past that most modern prospectors don’t know about.
Chena Creek District:
One of those areas is the little known Chena Creek District which was active around the period of 1900. Located in Eastern Clackamas County, this old mining area is said to be the northern most area of the Cascades Mountain range to contain gold. During its height in the mid 1890’s, about a hundred claims were located in the area, mostly concentrated on Cheeney Creek (formerly called “Chena” Creek) and the Salmon River (reffered to in those days as a “creek”). By 1903, only about twenty of these claims were actually active, as the road situation into that area was quite bad and most of the effort seemed to be focused on improving roads.
The only major mine in the area was that of Northern Light Mining and Milling Company based out out of Portland. Their mine was said to be located upon Huckleberry Mountain, near the mouth of the Salmon River where it enters the Sandy River (and is probably the source of what little gold can be found in that river). Development of the Northern Light, sometimes reffered to as the Cheeney Creek Prospect, consisted of an 87 foot shaft and 400 foot foot long tunnel. The equipment was powered by water. In addition to gold, the deposit also contained silver, copper and lead.
This old mining district is located due south of Mountain Air Park near the town of Welches on Highway 26. Most of the area is inside the Mount Hood National Forest and under the management of USFS and appears to have been completely withdrawn from mineral entry (ie. no claim filing). Due to the recent closure of nearly 2000 miles of roads and trails to vehicles inside the Mount Hood National Forest, I imagine that access could be an issue in this area.
Rock Creek District:
Not to be confused with the mining district of the same name in Baker County, this little known mining district was actually located in Eastern Clatsop County. As any experienced prospector can attest, this rugged coastal forest is hardly an ideal geological setting for gold country, but apparently, nobody ever told that to the early settlers in that area who decided to look for the illusive yellow metal anyway.
On May 25th, 1885, J.M. Weed filed a placer claim on Rock Creek called the “Gertrude”. Subsequent claims were located not only along Rock Creek in Clatsop County, but even extended all the way to the mouth of the Nehalam River, near the town of Veronia in Columbia County. Weed Creek, a small tributary of the North Fork of Rock Creek, is named for J.M. Weed and was probably the location of his claim.
By July of 1889, so much gold mining was going on this area that the Rock Creek Mining District was formed. Bill H. Braden was elected not only the Secretary, but also the President of the district. Some of the claims filed in the district during the early years included the “Protector”, “Defender”, “Elkhorn”, “Bonanza”, “Mountain” “Last Chance” and the “Rolling”.
By 1894, the whole thing suddenly petered out. Nothing more was heard about the area and in fact, the reality that gold was ever discovered in that area was removed entirely to the old history books.
Incidentily, most of Rock Creek is now located amongst private timber lands, while the majority is under management of the State of Oregon as the Tillamook State Forest and is therefore, not open to filing claims.
Gold Creek District:
Some miles west of the Rock Creek District is the old Gold Creek Mining District which is also located in Clatsop County.
It was here along the Nehalem River in Cruiser’s Gulch, that in 1901, a man named Sebastian Glaser filed a number of lode claims about two miles from the small town of Elsie. The site of his discovery lies in 4 North, 8 West and right on the line between Sections 1 and 2.
No other records for this mining district exist.
Though the name “Gold Creek” came to be attached to the locality of Glaser’s discovery, it should be noted that the current name of this waterway is George Creek.
Josephine County, Oregon