The history of mining in the Black Hills is so close you can touch it–if you know where to reach.
Many hiking trails in the Black Hills provide a great way to explore the outdoors but may be crowded. There is an alternative that offers a great way to see into the past and experience the history of our beautiful Hills. Abandoned mines, mining claims, homesteads and missing treasures are waiting to be explored off the beaten path. My research into mining’s local history began in middle school. Over the course of five years, I have mapped just over 350 mining claims. Below are two of my favorites, with directions of course.
The November Mine
In the Precambrian center of the Black Hills not too far from the Needles Highway a small-scale mine is hidden in plain sight. Heading south, it is about a quarter mile from the magnificent Cathedral Spires Trailhead. Pull off of the paved path and park at the next closed dirt road with a white wooden traffic barrier. Walk down the closed road, turning right at the split in the road. The first time I walked this road I wasn’t sure what I would find. But scan the hillside as you pass over tram cable wire, and upon looking up the cliff to the right, you will see her, clear as day!
I had always heard talk of a mine that was hidden not too far from the Needles. Upon further research, I’ve found her name is November Mine. The November Mine area includes a log cabin foundation, a large ore bin, a small open cut, small unstable subterranean workings, a concrete aerial tramline foundation and beautiful views all around. The November Mine sits high above all else, now only visited by history nerds and the occasional mountain goat. She is forever watching the sun rise in the east over the prairie, awaiting her eventual demise into the valley below her.
The Ingersoll Mine
Next is the Ingersoll Mine or Bob Ingersoll Mine. This mine holds a special place in my heart as was my first mine exploration and kick-started my true passion for mining history. You have probably seen the Ingersoll on Facebook or Instagram as it has recently exploded in popularity. Ingersoll Mine is two miles west of Keystone easily located on almost every GPS. Ingersoll boasts an impressive mill built in 1942 and extensive subterranean tunnels with multiple adits, the horizontal passage leading into the mine, chutes and stopes, large underground rooms. Discovered August 24, 1880, it operated from 1922 to 1945 with production occurring on and off. Ingersoll mining engineer A. I. Johnson called her “ a mine with more varieties than Heinz has pickles.”
With so much history here waiting to be discovered, why not go out and experience the rough and tumble past of one of the oldest mountain ranges on Earth. However, please remember when going out searching for these mines, or others, do not climb into mine shafts if you are inexperienced or lack the proper gear. Mine shafts can collapse at any moment and might contain deadly air inside. Happy exploring!
Photo: Ingersoll Mine by Bl0ndeeo2 on Flickr