If you’ve spent much time in the backcountry of the western US, you’ve likely stumbled across the remains of an abandoned mine. In February 2013, The Wilderness Land Trust completed purchase this week of one more of those abandoned mines, protecting its 90th wilderness area in the US.
The Painter Mine is located in the heart of the rugged Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, the nation’s second largest wilderness area. The purchase of this 38 acre mine will add valued riverfront acres to the wilderness and provide more public land for recreational boaters to explore as part of their adventures on the Wild and Scenic Salmon River. What makes this mine purchase particularly interesting is the fact that it sits directly on the Salmon River, one of the most popular recreational boating rivers in the nation. Indeed, The Painter Mine is just upstream from the famous Buckskin Bill Cabin, a popular stop for rafting parties enjoying the whitewater of the Salmon River.
Many of the most remote of wilderness lands in the West have been explored at some time for their potential to produce gold, silver, copper and other precious metals and minerals. Whether it is old equipment and cables, recovered rock, or even open mine shafts, mining has been making its mark on land throughout the West for generations.
So what is the problem with old mines? Many sites present a safety concern, with open adits and shafts just awaiting an accident. Also, old mines have become prime real estate for private retreats, which was the case with the Painter Mine. Mine tailings can also threaten the health of nearby waterways, with minerals leaching from exposed rock decades after it is mined. Home to the majority of the salmon and steelhead habitat remaining in the Columbia River Basin, protection of the Salmon River is of critical importance.
Boaters will now be able to stop and enjoy the shaded shoreline, experience the property’s mining history and hike to the rock outcroppings overlooking the Salmon River. Now that the Trust has purchased the Painter Mine, it will spend the next two years cleaning it up and eliminating major safety hazards before transferring it to the Forest Service for management as wilderness.
Removing the threat of mining in the future, eliminating a home site and cleaning up the remnants of long abandoned mining activity on the banks of the Salmon River will protect the pristine water of the Salmon River, as well as the wilderness experience for the thousands of people who are lucky enough to float its waters each year.
Cabin, Painter Mine Site
Closed Adit, Bat Gate
Mike Wilson, who sold the property to the Wilderness Land Trust, expressed his enthusiasm for the sale.
“The Painter Mine has a fascinating history of the people who worked on the mine long ago.” Mike noted. “We're happy to see the land return to public ownership for the enjoyment of all.”
The Wilderness Land Trust
PO Box 1420, Carbondale, CO 81623 phone: 970.963.6068 fax: 970.963.6067