aka Washington aka Jefferson Gulch aka Buffalo Gulch

Washington, Jefferson and Buffalo gulches, near the small community of Finn, drain part of the slope west of the Continental divide emptying into Nevada Creek, a tributary of the Blackfoot River. There are gravel deposits along these gulches which have been intermittently mined for their placer gold since the first strike in 1866 by Washington J. Stapleton. Stapleton discovered a new gold bar which he called Stapleton Bar. He named the creek, where he discovered the bar, Washington. Stapleton Bar was rich and adjoining gulches were found to yield pay dirt. Washington Gulch was mined for a distance of six miles and paid $13.00 to the pan on some claims. When a bigger head of water was needed at Stapleton Bar, a company of miners dug a thirteen-mile ditch from Nevada Creek to the Bar. Upon its completion, the controlling company boosted the rates for its use to such an extent that many of the men refused to pay the price. Consequently, without water, little mining was done, and men drifted away to better prospects. The district also yielded moderate amounts of placer gold in other areas. It is estimated that $1,500,000 in placer gold was recovered prior to 1890. One or more claims were actively worked each season from 1904 to 1948 (Sahinen 1935; Lyden 1948; Wolle 1963).

The area northeast of Nevada Creek, to which the above mentioned gulches are tributary, is underlain by rocks of the Spokane formation of Proterozoic age. Southwest of Nevada gulch the surface is covered by volcanic rocks, andesites and latities. The Shamrock mine is at the head of Nevada Gulch. Some gold ore has been produced from this property in recent years. There is said to be a significant amount of fair ore in sight. Near the head of Washington Gulch , the Spokane sediments are cut by a small stock of intrusive quartz monzonite (Sahinen 1935).

Estimates of the total production since 1904 vary from $275,000 to $300,000. Reported production gradually increased from 18 ounces of gold in 1903 to 1,272 ounces of gold and 168 ounces of silver in 1912. Production dropped to under 100 ounces the next year and production continued intermittently at this low level until 1931. Production gradually increased in the 1930s with a peak in 1934 and 1935 of about 1,500 ounces of gold per year. Production then gradually declined until in 1943 only one ounce of gold was reported to be recovered (McClernan 1976).


Information in the Montana Bureau of Mines vertical files state that the district includes the area near Finn, about 15 miles north of Avon, a station on the northern Pacific Railroad. Nevada, Washington, Jefferson, Buffalo Gulches were the most productive. Production was also reported in the Fontana Gulch, Madison Creek, Kiely and American gulches.

Dingman (1932) describes the district as including the placers in Washington, Nevada, Jefferson and American Gulches.

McClernan (1976) located the district in north-central Powell County in the upper part of the Nevada Creek drainage. Gold in the streams may have originated from outcrops of narrow quartz veins on the divide with Poorman Creek in Lewis and Clark county. A map of the district shows the streams in T12N, R9W and T12N, R8W (Figure 1).



The Cornucopia mine officially reported production in 1934, 1935, 1938 and 1939 (WPA 1941).


The Eldorado Gulch Gold mine in Washington Gulch was developed from 1933-1937 by P. F. Rogers. The overburden was first stripped by a dragline and a Bay City 3/8 cubic yard power shovel delivered the gold-bearing gravel to a washing plant designed by Rogers and constructed by the Union Iron Works of Spokane. The plant washed 1,000 cubic yards of gravel daily during the operating season (Montana Bureau of Mines Vertical File).


The Fontana was intermittently active from 1918 to 1938 (WPA 1941).

Old Shoe placer

The Old Shoe mine reported production from 1934 to 1940 (WPA 1941).

Scotch Bar

The Scotch Bar mine reported production from 1909 to 1915 (WPA 1941).

Other Placers

The Montana Bureau of Mines vertical files also lists the Buffalo Gulch placers, Eldorado placers, Jefferson Gulch placers, and Washington Gulch placers as occurring within the district.


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

Byrne, John and John J. Barry


Fourteenth Annual Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana.

Independent Publishing Company, Helena.

Dingman, Oscar A.

1934 "Placer Mining in Montana",

Mines Magazine

. Vol. 24, No. 1, pp. 13, 17-18.

Ferguson, Henry Gardiner and L. P. Benedict


Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor and Industry, 11th Biennial Report


Hall, J. H. and M. L. Rickman


Montana Bureau of Agriculture, Labor and Industry, Thirteenth Report, for years 1911 and 1912


Henderson, Chales William

1933 "The History and Influence of Mining in the Western United States",

Ore Deposits of the Western States

(Lungren Volume), pp 730-784.

American Institute of Mining and Metallic Engineering


Lyden, Charles J.


The Gold Placers of Montana

. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Memoir No. 26. Montana School of Mines, Butte.

McClernan, Henry G.

1976 "Metallic Mineral Deposits of Powell County, Montana",

Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Bulletin 98


Pardee, Joseph Thomas and F. C. Schrader

1933 "Metalliferous Deposits of the Greater Helena Mining Region, Montana",

U. S. Geological Survey Bulletin #842

, reprint of article in

Mining Truth

, Vol. 14, No. 10.

Sahinen, Uuno M.

1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Thesis, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

Swallow, G. C., J. B. Trevarthen and Jacob Oliver


Reports of Inspectors of Mines, State of Montana, year ending November 30th, 1890

. Journal Publishing Company, Helena.

Wolle, Muriel S.


Montana Pay Dirt. A Guide to the Mining Camps of the Treasure State

. Sage Books, Denver.

Works Projects Administration (WPA) Mineral Resources Survey


Montana Mine Index, An Alphabetical Index Arranged by Counties, Districts and Mines of Information on Montana Mines from 1867-1940

. Montana School of Mines, Butte.