aka Three-Mile or Threemile

Three Mile is a minor district located southeast of Florence in the Three Mile Creek drainage on the western slopes of the Sapphire Mountain range. The Three Mile district is just over the Bitterroot Divide, west of the Welcome Creek placers of Granite County. It is known for small amounts of placer mining over the years.

Metamorphosed sedimentary rocks of the Belt series underlie the eastern portion of the district, near the headwaters of Three Mile Creek in the Sapphire Mountains. Farther west the underlying rock is granite from the intrusive Idaho batholith. Finally, Tertiary lake beds, Pleistocene silts from glacial Lake Missoula, and recent alluvium cover the Bitterroot River valley and the lower reaches of its tributaries (Sahinen 1935; 1957).

Placer activity began at least by 1881. In July a Missoula newspaper announced that several groups of men were ready to work in the Three Mile district and soon the mines would all be "in full blast." This suggests that the men had staked their claims earlier and possibly worked them during a previous season. Men returning to the district included Sexton and Bentley; Dobbins, Loselle and Co.; George Dickson and F. Harris; and Mart Slocum and Co. Twelve men worked in the district in 1883, and the mines remained active two years later (Report of the Director of the Mint 1883; 1885; Wolle 1963).

After these early years of placering, the district was not mentioned in the literature until 1911. That year owners of the Three Mile placer recovered $3 to $4 a day using a giant to wash gravels through a grizzly and a "box flume" with bottom made from 9-inch poles. A lack of water led them to think about an ambitious project to bring water over the divide between Rock Creek and the Bitterroot, providing water not only for placering but also for valley farmers. At that time there was only enough water for two months of work (Rowe 1911; Lyden 1948).

While there was no more placer production reported from the Three Mile district, Mineral Resources and Minerals Yearbook did report small amounts of gold recovered from placers near Stevensville: $98 in 1932, $39 in 1933, and $40 in 1935. The exact location of these claims is unknown, and they may fall in the Three Mile, Burnt Fork, or North Bitterroot districts (Lyden 1948; Sahinen 1957).

The only lode mine mentioned in the Three Mile district is the Cleveland claim. Little is known about the mine's history except that operators processed ore in an arrastra during the first years of production (Sahinen 1957).


Sahinen (1935) describes the district in relation to Three Mile Creek, "a southwestward flowing stream entering Bitterroot River about five miles north of Stevensville....". Figure 1 shows the district essentially as described by Sahinen (1935) and as defined by the AMRB (1994).



The Cleveland mine is located 16.5 miles east of Florence, at the crest of the Sapphire Mountains. Early operators treated the free-milling gold ore in an arrastra downhill from the mine. The mine workings include a single adit. Difficulties in transportation may have been a factor in the mine's failure. There are no records of production (Sahinen 1957).


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 Frank Hunter


Ninth Report of the Inspector of Mines of the State of Montana

. State Publishing Company, Helena.

Lyden, Charles J.

1948 "The Gold Placers of Montana",

Memoir No. 26

. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, Butte, Montana.

Report of the Director of the Mint

1883 Government Printing Office, Washington.

1885 Government Printing Office, Washington.

Rowe, Jesse Perry

1911 "Gold Quartz Mining in Western Montana",

Mining World

, Vol. 34, No. 20, pp. 877-878.

Sahinen, Uuno Mathias

1935 "Mining Districts of Montana", Unpublished Master's thesis, Department of Geology, Montana School of Mines, Butte.

1957 "Mines and Mineral Deposits, Missoula and Ravalli Counties, Montana", Bulletin No. 8. Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology. 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 Sibell


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

. Sage Books, Denver.