The Wolf Creek district centers around Wolf Creek, a tributary of the Fisher River. Wolf Creek originiates in the Salish Mountains and flows west. The Fisher is a tributary of the Kootenai River. The district experienced some placer mining and has a few lode claims, but production has been insignificant.
Sedimentary rocks of the Belt series underlie the Wolf Creek district. As in the neighboring Libby and Cabinet districts, ore deposits are related to structural geology, i.e., folding and faulting. The three lodes near the junction of Wolf and Kavalla creeks are found in quartz veins in the underlying Prichard argillite and quartzite, while the deposit east of Warland is in a quartz vein associated with a granitic stock. The gold-bearing quartz veins are believed to be the source of the placer deposits (Johns 1970).
Wolf Creek attracted a few prospectors during the 1860s, probably after they fanned out from the short-lived excitement on nearby Libby Creek. Nick Moon and his partner worked along the creek for nearly two years, reportedly cleaning up $30,000 for their efforts. After a couple of decades of inactivity, a small group of miners returned to wash the gravels along Wolf Creek and its tributaries, especially Kavalla Creek. Knute Tideman, W. W. Williamson, and H. P. Burlingham were all at work by 1894. Mining evidently continued on an intermittent basis for a number of years since John Hibbard reported construction of a dam and ditches to aid his sluicing in 1910 (Renk 1994; Western News 1910).
Placering revived during the Depression, and once again a few men mined claims in the Wolf Creek district. Albert Johnson worked Knute Tideman's earlier placer near the junction of Wolf and Kavalla creeks during the 1930s. Initially, he averaged one ounce of gold per month, with the better gravels yielding $1 to $1.50 per wheelbarrow load. Johnson recovered gold in 1929-1930, 1932, and 1934-1935; his total for 1934 alone was 19 ounces. Art Darling worked his placer claim farther up Kavalla Creek during the same time. The gravel he washed through a sluice was not as rich as that in the Tideman placer, yielding as little as a few cents to a high of $1 per cubic yard. His total production was just 20 ounces in two years. Mining literature also mentioned the Grubstake placer in 1930 and 1935 (Johns 1970; WPA 1940).
The small scale placering along Wolf Creek did not generate an associated hunt for lode claims as occurred in many districts. A high grade gold-quartz boulder caused considerable excitement in 1894 and stimulated the search for the associated lode. The resultant Boulder Hill claim, however, did not measure up to the hopes of the locators. Other lode claims appear to be isolated locations not tied to organized prospecting. They include the Hoyt claim east of Warland, the Kirkpatrick prospect north of Kavalla Creek, and the Strodtbeck mine on Redemption Ridge. The district also includes prospect pits and abandoned mines such as two unpatented claims, the Mastodon and Barbara, located about 1.5 miles south of the Tideman placer. There were no known mills in the district, although the Hoyt mine may have had a mill at one time (Johns 1970; Highness 1989).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
Mining literature does not describe boundaries for the Wolf Creek district, so the district is best defined by the location of the mines. Placer mines cluster along both Wolf and Kavalla creeks near their junction. Two of the lode mines are also in the same area, while another is a few miles north and the fourth is in an unassociated area east of Warland.
Figure 1 shows the Wolf Creek district as defined by the AMRB (1994) which includes the whole of the Wolf Creek drainage. A smaller area where most of the placer and lode mines are located is delineated.
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
The Boulder Hill prospect, located east of Kavalla Creek on a slope known as Boulder Hill, caused more excitement than any other claim in the district. It all began when prospectors found a high grade gold-quartz boulder there in 1894. They drove an adit into the hill behind, hoping to find the associated lode. Knute Tideman and Charles Strodtbeck found similar float in the area in 1903 and staked two claims to the ground. The owners and lessees worked the claims only intermittently for the next 35 years, and then Strodtbeck continued with more serious trenching in the 1940s. The workings include two adits, 50 and 500 feet long, and 50 pits and trenches spaced at intervals. There is no production reported from the property, but samples from the vein assayed $5 per ton in gold and silver (Johns 1970).
The Hoyt mine includes seven claims and a fraction located about one mile east of the site of Warland. It is not known when the mine was worked, but development included two inclined shafts (20 feet and 170 feet deep), a 180 foot adit, a pit, and two bulldozer cuts. Above ground structures included two cabins, a compressor house, and an ore bin and may have contained a mill at one time. Production probably did not amount to more than a few hundred tons. While the owner reported ore that assayed $30-$35 a ton in gold, other selected samples assayed at just $8-10 a ton (Johns 1970).
The Kirkpatrick property is located on the north side of Kavalla Creek, in the southeast quarter of section 15, T29N, R27W. Mr. Kirkpatrick acquired surface and mineral rights to the land in 1931 and worked the prospect through 1933. During that time he drove an 80 foot adit and sank a 35 foot shaft. Additional exploration work in the late 1950s was done with bulldozer cuts. The owner reported that a sample from one of the cuts assayed 14.6 percent zinc; 8.4 percent lead; 3.2 ounces of silver; and 0.005 ounces of gold per ton, but a sample taken by Johns (1970) came back with much lower values. There is no reported production from this mine (Johns 1970).
The Strodtbeck prospect contains three unpatented claims on Redemption Ridge north of Wolf Creek. An early operator shipped one carload of ore prior to the removal of the Great Northern tracks in 1904. Charles A. Strodtbeck relocated the claims in 1931 but has reported no production from the property. The claims are developed with a 10-foot discovery shaft, a 30-foot vertical shaft, and several pits and trenches. An assay of selected specimens from the dump showed 0.40 percent copper; 1.8 percent lead; 0.24 ounce of gold; and 0.30 ounce of silver per ton (Johns 1970).
Abandoned Mine Reclamation Bureau (AMRB)
1994 Mining districts of Montana. Maps 1:100,000 and Map #94-NRIS-129. Compiled and edited by Joel Chavez. Prepared by Montana State Library Natural Resource Information System (NRIS) for Montana Department of State Lands. Helena
1989 "Cultural Site Records, 24LN1168, Sullivan Ridge Mines". 9 November.
Johns, Willis M.
1970 "Geology and Mineral Deposits of Lincoln and Flathead Counties, Montana", Bulletin 79. Montana College of Mineral Science and Technology, Butte.
Renk, Nancy F.
1994 "Mining", In Historic Overview of the Kootenai National Forest, Vol. 1, edited by Christian J. Miss. Northwest Archaeological Associates, Inc., Seattle.
1910 "Wolf Creek Placers". 11 August.
Work Project Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey
1940 Directory of Montana Mining Properties. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir No. 20. Montana School of Mines, Butte.