The Elk Creek mining district is located on the northeast slope of the Garnet Mountain range and includes the Elk Creek drainage, a tributary of the Blackfoot River. The district was primarily a placer mining district with total placer production up to 1918 estimated to be between $6 and $10 million (Pardee 1918).
Most of the surface of the district is occupied by beds of quartzite, shale and schist continuous with those of Garnet. These are overlain by limestones and intruded by granodiorite. The region is underlaid by a contact zone of Precambrian slate, schist and quartzite with thick beds of Paleozoic limestones. Intrusions of late Cretaceous or early Tertiary age are present. Lode mines consist of gold-bearing quartz-pyrite veins that have been formed along fissures in Precambrian sediments and in granodiorite. The ores are located in shear zone veins in granodiorite and in bedding plane fissure veins in sedimentary deposits (Schwab 1984; Sahinen 1935; Sahinen 1957).
A prospecting party from Last Chance Gulch discovered gold on Elk Creek in June of 1865, and at about the same time discoveries were made on the other side of the divide along Bear Creek. This started one of the last large Montana gold rushes, to the Garnet Mountains. Within weeks, about 6,000 people moved into the Garnet Mountain mining districts. Mining camps such as Reynolds City (near the head of Elk Creek), Yreka, Springtown, and Garnet were established on or near the Garnet Mountain divide. In 1869 the production of Elk Creek and vicinity was $500,000 in gold. A three-mile-long miner's ditch was built to the diggings. Elk Creek, McManus, Harris, Oliver, Jonathan, and Day Gulches were placered for gold. The principal lode mines were in the Day Gulch area (Schwab 1984; Pardee 1918; Sahinen 1957).
The mining camp in the southeast corner of the district known as Yreka or Eureka was about two miles northwest of McManus Gulch. McManus Gulch was heavily placer mined until about 1870 with Chinese prospectors remaining after many of the Euroamerican miners had left. Supplies for the camps were brought from Fort Benton by pack trains. In 1916 McKevitt and Iverson opened new ground on Elk Creek at the mouth of McManus Gulch, using hydraulics to cut 10-18 feet to bedrock. Patrick Powers was placer mining on Elk Creek at the mouth of Jonathan Gulch and some small scale open-cut or hydraulic mining was done on Bear and Elk Creeks. The next major period of mining activity in the gulch occurred after 1934, after an increase in the price of gold and during the depression (Schwab 1984; Pardee 1918).
In 1921 the placers on Quartz Creek yielded gold and silver. The principal producers were the Davey and Elk Creek hydraulic properties. The Elk Creek placer reported activity in the years 1912-13, 1915, 1917-18, and 1921. It continued producing until at least 1930. (Sahinen 1957; WPA 1941).
Between 1938 and 1939 the yield of placer gold from the district increased by 849 ounces, due to higher output by the Norman Rogers Mining Company, which operated a dragline and dry-land washer from April to December and treated about 200,000 cubic yards of gravel. W. S. Grubbs & Co. operated a dragline and floating washer at the Piegan placer. Other producing placers included the Betty Ann, Bob Cat, and Depression properties. In 1939, nine placer mines in the Elk Creek district produced 1,420 fine ounces of gold and 131 ounces of silver, for a total value of $49,789. A dragline dredge was operated on Elk Creek in 1946 (Rowe 1941; Sahinen 1957).
Between about 1886 and 1916, the mines on Elk Creek yielded gold valued at between one and two million dollars. Between then and 1948, the total production of the district was probably close to $105,000. For Missoula County as a whole, between 1904 and 1945 the placer mines produced slightly more than $425,000 in gold, mostly from the Elk Creek, Nine Mile Creek and Coloma districts (Lyden 1948; Sahinen 1957).
BOUNDARIES OF THE DISTRICT
According to Sahinen (1935), the mines at the head of Elk Creek in Missoula County are about two miles east-southeast of Garnet (which is located in Granite County). The district was reached via Garnet. Sahinen (1957) described the district as "in the Garnet Range in the extreme eastern part of Missoula County at the headwaters of Elk Creek...The area is drained by Elk Creek and its tributaries, which flow northward into Blackfoot River." This area is considered a sub-district of the Coloma district (see Coloma district discussion) and includes primarily the Dandy mine.
The Dandy was generally described in the historical literature as being in the Elk Creek district (Missoula County), although it is in Granite County and adjacent to the Garnet district. The Dandy and other mines at the head of Elk Creek are listed at various times in the Elk Creek district in Missoula County, the Coloma District in Powell County, and the Bear Gulch district in Powell County (WPA 1941). The Dandy and other mines in the Elk Creek sub-district are discussed the the AMRB historic contexts as part of the Coloma district and others as part of the Garnet district. It is recommended that the interested reader see also the Coloma and Garnet districts.
Pardee (1918) defined the Elk Creek district as the group of mines at the head of Elk Creek in Sections 1, 2, 11, 12 of T12N, R14W, all in Granite County. Berg (1988) referred to the Elk Creek-Coloma district. The Elk Creek sub-district is south of the AMRB (1994) boundary. Figure 1 shows the boundary as defined by the AMRB (1994) which includes a portion of the placer mining areas of Elk Creek and a few lode mines.
HISTORIES OF SELECTED MINES
In 1953 barite was the leading mineral commodity produced in Missoula County primarily because of the Greenough operated by the Finlen and Sheridan Mining Company. Barite was first mined in Montana in 1951 by the Finlen and Sheridan Mining Company from the Greenough (or Elk Creek) mine in what was known as the Elk Creek-Coloma district. Within a year a processing mill was built on the Blackfoot River about 6.5 miles northeast of the mine. In 1952 nearly 3,000 tons of barite ore were mined, and in 1953 10,920 tons were pulverized for sale to the drilling industry and 5,542 tons were sold to chemical companies and sugar refineries. In 1955 the company increased its production of barite by about 28 percent. Crude barite was sold to sugar refineries and ground barite for use as rotary-drilling mud. The National Lead Company bought the mines and mill in 1956 and began mining on the newly discovered Coloma deposit. The Stinkwater deposit was discovered in the district in 1963 and was mined until 1966 (Berg 1988; Sahinen 1957).
The Independence mine is on the slope east of Cayuse Gulch and near the Elk Creek watershed, developed by a 150-foot adit in 1916 (Pardee 1918).
The Lucky Boy mine produced two tons of ore in 1951 that yielded one ounce of gold (Sahinen 1957).
The Lynx mine was located about 1/4 mile southwest of Stone Flat, in a ravine tributary to Cayuse Gulch. One stope reportedly yielded some ore worth about $80 per ton in gold (Pardee 1918).
Morse and Kennedy
The Morse and Kennedy prospect was located near the western boundary of Section 15, T13N, R14W, about 1/2 mile northeast of the junction of Elk Creek and the North Fork of Elk Creek. Prior to 1917 Morse & Kennedy worked the mine. A small shipment of copper-bearing ore was made from the mine (Sahinen 1957; Pardee 1918).
The Sunset was a placer mine on Elk Creek, two or three miles southeast of the area known as Sunset. In 1916 it was owned by the Elk Creek Hydraulic Mining company, which was doing ground sluicing (Pardee 1918).
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
Berg, Richard B.
1988 "Barite in Montana",
, Montana Bureau of Mining and Geology.
Lyden, Charles J.
1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana", Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology,
Pardee, Joseph Thomas
1918 "Ore Deposits of the Northwestern Part of the Garnet Range, Montana",
U. S. Geological Survey
, Bull. 660, pp. 159-239;
(abst.) Washington Acad. Sci. Journal
, Vol. 8, p. 290.
Rowe, J. P.
Geography and Natural Resources of Montana
. Missoula: Montana State University, 1933 (revised 1941).
Sahinen, Uuno Mathias
Mining Districts of Montana
. M. S. thesis, Montana School of Mines.
1957 "Mines and Mineral Deposits, Missoula and Ravalli Counties, Montana", Bulletin 8, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology.
1984 "Results of a Cultural Resource Survey of the Lower McManus Creek Area, Elk Creek Mining District, Montana." Prepared for the Prince Mining Company.
Work 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.