Lets Play Name That Mine

In my submission box yesterday was this little gem from reader Bill Kasmauski. Its an old Northland Studios pic of a mine apparently along the Cliff Range. (based on the cliff in the background). The photo was in such bad shape he had to take it to a restorer, who was able to fix it up a great deal. Bill thinks this might be the Cliff Mine but wasn’t sure, so he sent it to me to post on the site for everyone to take a look. He thought someone else might be able to pinpoint where and when the photo was taken. While the location seemed right for the Cliff, the buildings seemed wrong. So I thought I’d do a little digging on my own.

Heres another photo of the Cliff Mine, from across the Eagle River. I picked a wide shot here so we could take a look at all the buildings. The first thing that seemed odd to me in Bill’s photo was the smokestack. It was a large freestanding steel stack. There are four stacks still standing at Cliff today, and all of them are identical in appearance. Those stacks have a base of poor rock, built up into a 15 foot tall cone atop of which the steel stack would be placed. This stack in Bill’s pick looks nothing like those.

The second oddity is in the cliff background itself. If we assume the rock piles in Bill’s pic are the same that sit at the site today, then we should see the large rock pile that flows down from atop the cliffs. Every photo I have seen of Cliff has that flowing rock pile, just like in the photo above. Besides that, the Cliff in the background of our mystery photo is broken on both sides, meaning there isn’t one long continuous cliff face as would be seen behind the Cliff mine. While I’m sure these are still the cliffs, I don’t think its the Cliff Mine. If thats true, then which Cliff Range mine is it? Lets take a look at what we got to work with..

Heres an ariel image (Thanks to Terraserver) showing the Cliff Range from just south of the Cliff Mine to just north of Phoenix. Along this range we can count six distinct poor rock concentrations – five along the cliff face and one atop of it. We have been to all these piles during our explorations (we just haven’t featured them all yet here on Explorer), and are confident on the identity of four. These would be the North American (which are more hills then rock piles); the Cliff Mine itself (which include both the piles at the base of the Cliff and atop of it); and the Phoenix Mine (sometimes referred to as the “New Phoenix”). There are two other mines that we are unsure of. One is between Phoenix and the Cliff that we have sometimes seen referred to as the “West Vein” mine. The other is north of Phoenix, which we think is the St. Claire but aren’t sure. Bill’s photo must be one of these six.

Above you see a photo of the Phoenix. This is looking southwest from the bluff on which Crestview once sat. The road in the photo is M26 on its way out (to the right) towards Eagle River. The building is in foreground is actually still there, a small log cabin sitting on the side of the road. Elmo’s Towers would be sitting just outside the photo atop the cliff. Our mystery photo can’t be the Phoenix for two reasons. First the rock pile is much smaller in the photo, and the shape of the buildings are all wrong. So not Phoenix.

Here is a photo of what I think is the “west vein” mine. In the background is the town of Phoenix (you can make out the Church of the Assumption that still stands today if you look close enough) The poor rock pile in the background would be Phoenix, and the stack seen in the far distance along the cliffs would be the St. Claire. Now we’re getting somewhere. The buildings on the right look a lot like the one in Bill’s photo, and the stack is very similar as well. Only difference would be in the window and door placements in that building – which are a little off between photos. It could very well be this mine. But there’s a mine that matches even better.

Here is a photo that may be the St. Claire. (At the Archives website it mentions that a user reports the mine might be St. Claire, but I don’t know if that’s accurate) Now this looks exactly like Bill’s photo: the shaft house; the buildings sitting in front of the rock pile; the rock pile itself; and the cliff outline in the background. It all matches up. Whatever mine this picture is of, Bill’s picture is of. Now we just need to identify this mine. If it is the St. Claire then we have our winner. But looking at this photo, it appears very similar to the “west vein” mine seen in the photo before this. So it could go either way. Perhaps someone out there has some more insight that will help us out.

Time to play Name That Mine. Anyone?

Thanks Bill for the photo and the material for this post… much appreciated!

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  1. What is St. Claire, Mike. It can’t be the Robbins (West Vein) because the topography is slightly wrong and the buildings are wrong. Good deduction, when I saw the picture I first said ‘An article on St. Claire’.

  2. Joe wins!
    I feel like I should have a prize for you, but I don’t. Sorry. What I thought was interesting was how similar the St. Claire and the Robbins (thanks for the name!) infrastructure seemed to look. Not the same, but similar. I at first thought that the photo of the Robbins was reversed (which has been known to happen in old photos), and that it was in fact another photo of the St. Claire. (with the stack in the far background belong to the Robbins). When you reverse it you find it could go either way. I guess they just look similar.

    A quick story about the St. Claire, we went there in late fall last year for an excursion. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground, but was just slightly overcast. Climbed up to the top of the Cliff face for a panoramic, and a blizzard appeared out of no where. Couldn’t see a foot in front of our faces, standing atop a sheer rock face. I swear the mine was trying to kill us.

  3. No prize needed ;) the Robbins had two main shafts, one at the base of the cliff, and one on a ledge a bit higher up. The shaft at the base of the cliff looks to have had the crusher at or near it. One of the Key differences between St. Claire and Robbins is the two shafts, and the surface layout, as Robbins had an adit that ran from almost the collar of the Lower Elevation Shaft to the shaft higher up the cliff. I would say that the 5th picture is Robbins though. Referencing said picture you can see the higher elevation head frame, the lower elevation head frame (sticking slightly over the trees), the boiler house, and the crusher facility.

  4. Scott…
    I missed that one. They must of just added it since I swore I searched for St. Claire and only got the one photo that I posted here. Your photo looks a little different, but it still seems to be the same one. Thanks for the link! (and the work you put in searching!)

  5. You guys are good. I have Robbins and St. Claire marked on my topo map set but never explored them. That Robbins was a very picturesque location, esp. in that second photo below the TerraServer aerial photo. Too bad those buildings weren’t made of poor rock and still there like ruins of a castle on a mountainside.

  6. Found it again! Love the old photos. Just wanted to let you know that the Robbins/West Vein mine and property have recently been sold and will ultimately become private property. Trespassers will not be shot as long as they “take only pictures, leave only footprints”. Absolutely none of the historical features of the property will be altered in any way, I can assure everybody. I’ve been exploring the Copper Country since I was a young mining engineering student at MTU in the very early 80’s. Your site is beautiful and the photography wonderful! Keep up the good work!

  7. Herb –

    I agree about the Robbins – that photo is awesome. I can imagine the ruins at Cliff sitting at that same spot and think how great of a ruin that would of been!

    Mr. Fosburg…

    Thanks for the compliments about the site, I just did a major overhaul of the place (sorry – still black backgrounds!) and hope everyone enjoys it. I’m sorry it took you so long to find this post – I’m still working on a what’s new page that should make that easier for everyone in the future.

    I’m glad to hear that the new owners of the Robbins/West Vein are as nice about people like me who like only to take photos and explore old ruins. I’ve seen just in the last year at least a half dozen places that we have explored previously that are now definitely marked “no trespassing”. Although I understand and support the right of land-owners to keep people off their lands (and to mitigate destruction caused by the few reckless ATV drivers out there), I feel a little miffed since my interest is only in documenting ruins and nothing else. I never felt like I was doing any harm, and I doubt others like me are either. But thats OK.

    Exploring was probably a lot more interesting back when you were in college – there was probably much more still around. The more I return to some of these ruins the more I think that we’re looking at the end of an era and that progress (and all the shiny newness that comes with it) has finally arrived to the Copper Country.

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