A Landing a Day

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Walkermine, Plumas County, California

Posted by graywacke on June 8, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much an every-third-day blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2021; A Landing A Day blog post number 439.

Dan –  A pretty good string of USers going on (6/7), with this landing in . . . CA; 94/108; 7/10; 5; 150.4.  This was my fourth 2013 CA landing.  Well, I mentioned it last post, and I’ll mention it again.  I’m getting awfully close to breaking through the mythical 150 barrier.  Stay tuned.  Anyway, here’s my regional landing map:

 port landing 1

My closer-in landing map shows that I landed in the boonies, in the midst of many small (mostly very small) towns.

 port landing 2

I landed in the watershed of Emigrant Creek; on to Little Grizzly Creek; on to Indian Creek, and then on to two new rivers  (my 1118th and 1119th rivers):   first the East Branch of the North Fork of the Feather River and then on to the North Fork of the Feather River; on to the Feather itself (2nd hit); on to the Sacramento (25th hit).

What you’re seeing right now is a unique ALAD happening.  Never before have I named a post after a location that’s not on a StreetAtlas map.  Well, there’s a first time for everything.  So, where does “Walkermine” come from?  Well, I’ll start with my Google Earth shot, which has no clue about Walkermine.  In fact, it looks like I’ve landed in a pristine mountain wilderness setting:

 port ge 1

OK, now I’m zooming out a little, and something rather suspicious comes into view:

 port ge2

Huh.  A big, Africa-shaped white patch, out here in the wilderness, with some other disturbed areas off to the northeast.  Very peculiar . . .

 Before investigating the white patch, I’ll zoom back and share this oblique GE shot to give you an overall feel for the landscape:

 port ge 3

If not for “Africa,” it would be lovely!  Zooming in a little, here’s a closer view of Africa, which measures about 3,000 feet “north to south”, which makes it nearly 100 acres in size.

 port ge 4

And what the heck, let’s zoom way in and see what we can see:

 port ge 5

Wow.  I don’t have a clue what I’m looking at (well, anyway, I didn’t when I was first perusing GE).

 I then zoomed into to the other disturbed area:

 ge walker mine

Hmmm.  Looks like some old industrial facility of some sort. . .

 My first indication of what might be going on was when I activated Panoramio photos on GE and saw a bunch of photos posted right at the above area.  Several of the photos referenced “Walker Mine.”  The search was on:  the former town of Walkermine was discovered, and my post title was soon selected.

 From CaGenWeb.com:

 George Bemis made his discovery at Walker Mine in 1904.   Initial yields by 1914 were sufficient to warrant construction of a bunkhouse and three cabins for workers. High-grade ore assaying 12 percent copper was struck during October 1915.  A new flotation plant (for ore processing) was completed in 1916.  Electricity arrived in 1917, when a power line was brought from Indian Valley.

That’s enough background –  now make sure you read this part:

During Walker Mine’s most productive years (1920 – 1930), it was operated by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.  The company town of Walkermine was built to support work crews and their families during that period (1,000 workers and 3,000 Walkermine residents).  The town supported a hospital, a movie theater, a school, a library, dining facilities, a store, a tavern, a post office, a service station, a baseball field, and a ski hill.

Occupants of Walkermine lived in 132 company-constructed homes, 4 bunkhouses of three stories each, and 68 private homes.  During its heyday, 75 students attended the school at Walkermine and were taught by just three teachers.  Walkermine officially became a defunct settlement in 1941, when Walker Mine closed permanently.

Wow.  There was a whole town, and now it’s all gone.  A really strange aspect of this town was that in the winter, it was totally isolated because of massive snowfalls typical for the region.  But the mining went on (with ore being shipped out), and supplies were needed.  How did they do this when the roads were impassable?  Read on . . .

A unique feature of the Walker Mine operation was its 9-mile tramway, completed in 1919.  It was built to transport copper ore in 3-foot- by-4-foot buckets from the mine to a railroad siding at Spring Garden.  There, the copper ore was loaded into gondola carts and freighted to Tooele, Utah for smelting.  Also transported by the tram during winter periods were food, freight, mail, and occasionally people.  During winter, the company town was cut off from the outside world, except for the tramway.  The line ran on wooden towers, each from 20 to 60 feet in height.  In winter, when the snow was extraordinarily deep, crews were employed near the summit of Grizzly Ridge to shovel the snow out of the line of travel of the buckets.

Oh my!  Amazing.  Here’s a GE Panoramio shot (by Drafter) of one of the tramway wooden towers:

 pano drafter tram tower

Here’s a GE shot showing the path the tramway took from the mine to Spring Garden:

 ge tram path

From MiningArtifacts.org, here’s a shot of the old mine & town:

 miningartifacts.org

From Plumas County WebGen, here’s another old picture:

 Walkermine from plumas webgen

“Drafter” posted a bunch of Panoramio pictures of the mine site now.  Here’s the old mine entrance:

 pano drafter mine entrance

Here are the ruins of the ore processing building:

 pano drafter processing building

Here are some more ruins . . .

 pano drafter

I couldn’t find any information about the one hundred-acre Africa, except that it’s an old tailings pond,  meaning a pond that used to receive wastes from ore processing.  Such wastes are typically highly acidic (or lowly acidic, from a pH point of view), which is probably why, after all this time, that it’s a blight on the countryside, just sitting there.  One might think that the State of California could cough up a few bucks to clean it up . . .

Moving right along . . . you’ll notice “Davis Lake” on my landing map east of my landing.  I’ll close with this shot of a stream, just before it flows into the lake (Panoramio by The Utiman):

 pano the utiman stream into davis lake

 

That’ll do it.

 KS

 Greg

 

 

© 2013 A Landing A Day

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12 Responses to “Walkermine, Plumas County, California”

  1. bobby said

    its a cyanid leach pit basically cyanid sand

  2. Mark said

    The tailings area is a “super” EPA cleanup site from the acid runoff. It is closed to the public.

    • graywacke said

      Mark – Thanks for the info. So the mine is a Superfund site? When will the tailings be cleaned up, I wonder . . .

      Greg

  3. Michael said

    Apparently the mine is not officially a super fund site. In fact the state and the Federal Government have spent money on the site which may seem ludicrous since the money was made by a string of mining companies who then tried to sell and or walk away. ‘Let’s have the people pay for it…’ is commonly heard. At any rate, the State Water Board recently issued a Clean up and Abatement order in early 2014 so that Arco/Anaconda will be putting some of the money back that they took out. However, copper mine cleanup is a less than sure thing. So if you fish downstream from Walker Mine, you may want to stop.

    • graywacke said

      Michael – I’m in the environmental field, but have not done any work in California. It was always my impression that they led the pack for environmental protection & clean-up (along with my home state of NJ). Maybe not!

      If I were a local, I’d get involved in a “Clean-up Walker Mine” campaign!

      Thanks for the comment.

      Greg

      • Michael said

        Turns out that more regulations doesn’t equal better results. If you read the Regional Water Board site, you can see that the problem hasn’t been solved. The problem is that nobody goes out there and if they do, the problem isn’t clear. AND, those low pH, high copper waters are not marked so…
        Perhaps we are more advanced than some areas such as our next door neighbor but we have a LONG way to go.

  4. Lynn said

    Thank you for your post. I have been searching for information about my grandfather. His death certificate states that he died in Walkermine Hospital, in Walkermine, California. Now I know a little more about his life. Thanks for your post. What a great coincidence.

    Lynn

    • graywacke said

      Lynn – I’m so happy you stumbled on my blog and that you were able to learn something about your grandfather.

      You made my day!

      Greg

  5. Marleen Deane said

    My Dad worked at this mine, I was about 3 or 4 years old so it must have been between 1936 and 1937. I remember him leaving in the winter on the tram, the store and the movie theater, which I walked in and out of on my own. Our house was probably two rooms, barely a cabin. Wish he were still around to visit these web sites and tell stories, I remember a few. I still have two hard hats he wore in the mine although the light that was attached is missing. Sure brings back a lot of stuff.
    Thanks,
    Marleen Deane

    • graywacke said

      Marleen – Thanks so much for your comments. I’m glad you found my blog and could relate to it on such a personal level.

      Greg

    • Riley Smith said

      Marleen, I am a history buff, and keep my travel trailer at a park on Grizzly Rd. I recently learned about Walker Mine and the town of Walkermine, with a population of 3,000 citizens. I suppose what fascinates me most about this company town is that with exception of the tram the populace was cut off from the rest of the world for much of the year. There seems to be very little that I can find that describes what life was like for the folks living there. I am trying to find a map or diagram of how the town was layed out and some old photos of the town. If you have any information or can give me names and means of contacting them, I would be most appreciative. I would certainly share any info. I find out with you, if you like. Riley Smith

  6. Catherine Jovicich Walcott said

    My dad was born at Walkermine in 1937 and his two older sisters attended school there. His aunt and uncle lived there as well. I have heard many stories about that mine and always wondered exactly where it was located. We’re going to have to take him to check it out! Thanks for so much research!
    – Catherine Jovicich

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