Added by Chaz Shand
Get a great workout exploring Southern Oregon / Northern California mining history!
Although the hills of the State of Jefferson are most known for boasting gold, a detour from Applegate Lake leads to an interesting view of regional copper mining history. Start out by taking Forest Road 1050 south of the Seattle Bar at the southeastern tip of the lake, then heading to its intersection with Forest Road 1055. From here you choose whether to access the mines from the top or the bottom of their namesake ledge. I'll outline both:
To approach the mines from the bottom there are a couple of Forest Service gates that are intermittently locked. The first is near the previously mentioned intersection and is on Forest Road 1050 immediately before the village of Joe Bar, California. Make a right onto Forest Road 1060 in the middle of this small community and begin your trek up a 4 mile, steep uphill journey into the mountains. The second Forest Service gate is at the beginning of this segment, it's been locked more often than not lately so I just run up the hill. About 4 miles up Road 1060 there's a hairpin turn near Joe Creek - this is where the mining area begins.
You'll see an old road over an old bridge crossing the creek and after a couple switchbacks on this old road you'll see the mine adit pictured in my first and second images high on the cliffs to the west. Cross the creek and climb up to it if you choose, or stay on the switchbacks of the old road and continue higher. Looking upward you can see the old mining platform in my next three pictures. Agile climbers can make it up there for great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
To approach the mines from the top of the ledge, make a right onto Forest Road 1055 at the intersection before the first gate and drive about 7 miles. You'll come to a fork after a small clearing, so keep left onto a narrow road that doesn't see much use but leads to the top of the Blue Ledge. The drivable part of the road ends at a small 'unofficial' camping area and the top of the ledge is just a short walk on an overgrown part of the road to the north.
You can really see the steepness of the hills from up here, and if you look closely from the top of the ledge you can see the mine adit in my first pictures as well as the mining platform, down and to the left. Going this way takes a lot of leg work out of the equation, but the hill down is very steep. Proceed with caution.
Also of note, the mining site was the scene of a massive Forest Service cleanup project in 2010. A side road before Road 1060 passes by Joe Creek leads to a man-made clearing where tons of the old mine tailings are buried. This clearing can also be seen from the top of the ledge. Anyway, now you know why there's a mountain called 'Copper Butte' in the area, and why the 'Copper' boat ramp at Applegate lake used to lead to a small town called 'Copper' before it was flooded in 1980.
- Hiking boots or shoes - Maximum traction is a must on these very steep hills, and they're coated with loose rock and dirt.
- Climbing gloves - You will definitely need to climb with both hands if you want to get to the most interesting parts of the mines. Rusty old cables are in place and can be used to help the climb. Also, you don't want to touch the mine tailings with your bare heads, it leaves an orange residue.
- Plenty of water - Although way up in the mountains, the water that runs of this hill is not drinkable. The water passes through the surrounding rock, orange with copper, zinc and sulfur residue from the mine tailings - so you must bring as much bottled water as you can.
- Bear spray - I have seen a black bear grazing on Forest Road 1055 on my way to the mines. I steered clear of it, but even these smaller bears can become aggressive if they have cubs in the area.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More
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