In the weeks leading up to our trip to the Beaverdale Mine, Julie had undergone a battery of tests, including a biopsy, and was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was scheduled to undergo surgery and we had no idea what the outcome would be or what the future had in store for us. We decided to take an epic trip before the surgery and we wanted to go somewhere that no one we knew had been before. With no real trail to follow and only a little guidance from Discovering Washington's Historic Mines Vol. 1, we set out out to find Illinois Basin and the Beaverdale Mine.
Our drive took us east on I-90 out of Seattle, through North Bend, and onto the North Fork County Road. After traveling the North Fork for over 20 miles it took a 90 degree turn to the left and we took the second right onto NF-5731. We drove up NF-5731 as far as we were able, parked alongside the road, and donned our gear.
There really was no trailhead to speak of. We knew we needed to hike up NF- 5731 until it intersected with Illinois Creek, and then we would have to do some way finding from there.
We hiked for less than a mile on the road before reaching the creek. There was no trail to be found so it was up to us to figure out how best to proceed. The creek bed was mostly dry so we decided to hike straight up the channel.
We saw many small, lovely waterfalls as we made our way up the creek bed.
We also found a nice pool that we ended up taking a dip in on the way back down.
When we encountered a section of creek that was difficult to pass, we took a detour onto the adjacent, wooded slope. In the past, there was apparently a trail that ran through these woods, but we found no sign of it as we made our way through the abundant blowdown and forest debris.
We only travelled a few hundred yards through the woods before we were drawn back to the creek channel. That is when we discovered the first rusty bit of the trip, an old cable strewn across a large boulder. It was likely leftover from a logging operation in the area.
We were fortunate that 2015 was such a dry year. We encountered many waterfalls on our climb but they were dry enough that we could climb them rather than traversing around them.
For much of the journey up the creek bed we were hopping from boulder to boulder.
At one point during our climb some movement caught our attention. We investigated to find an animal we encounter often while searching for mines. It was a Coastal Tailed Frog.
It was clear that the route we were taking would not be possible in a year of normal rainfall. At times we were climbing steep cliffs that would ordinarily have been raging waterfalls.
Even without the water, some of the terrain we were traversing was pretty sketchy.
We eventually reached the top of the rocky creek bed and found ourselves on fairly level ground. The creek now ran slow and wide, and the bed was no longer rock but sand. The sand was rich in pyrite which was sparkling gold in the sun.
We followed the creek a few more yards and the Illinois Basin opened up before us.
Looking back in the direction from which we had come, we had a good view of McClain Peaks in the distance.
We continued to follow Illinois Creek farther into the basin. We had read reports that this entire basin had once been flooded by a beaver dam, and the many wide channels and larger pools we encountered were evidence of this past flooding. But we found no signs of recent beaver activity as we explored.
Although it seemed that the beavers had abandoned the basin, other wild animals had not. Deer tracks were abundant, and we even found some bobcat tracks in an area of exposed mud.
We saw dozens of fish swimming in the different pools and channels, and we encountered a number of amphibians including this Northern Red-legged Frog.
We hadn't travelled too far into the basin before we arrived at the first of our destinations. Colorful rusty bits marked the site of an old mine camp.
The rusty bits were part of an old wood stove. Other pieces lay nearby, slowly being reclaimed by the basin's vegetation.
We knew the slopes surrounding the basin had once held several adits of the Beaverdale Mine. We had a GPS point for one of them so we began climbing upward toward the point.
It was a bit of a scramble getting through the large boulder field we were traveling, but it seemed like a better choice than trying to push through the brush.
As we continued upward, we entered a narrow gulch filled with loose, jagged rock. It was even steeper than it appears in this photo.
Partway up the gulch Julie discovered a huge patch of her favorite plant, Maidenhair Fern.
As we reached the approximate coordinates and altitude of the GPS point we were navigating toward, we found what appeared to be a collapsed mine adit. The ore vein was still visible at the surface.
Scattered all around the site were large chunks of ore. Much of it appeared to be rich in arsenopyrite.
After thoroughly investigating the area around the collapsed adit and taking a short break we decided to make our way back down the mountain. Although we did not discover and open adit to explore, the solitude of the basin and challenging journey to reach it had made this a very satisfying adventure.
Thank you for reading about our adventure finding the Beaverdale Mine. If you choose to take your own adventure to this spot*, we hope you will drop us a line.