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Remains of an abandoned mine
This is the remains of a processessing building of an abandoned Black Hills gold mine. Such structures are not uncommon in the Black Hills but visitors are cautioned to be careful around such sites because there are often open or poorly protected shafts within -- sometimes covered by rotted lumber.Also, most are on private property so entry requires the land-owner's permission. This site happens to be on US Forest Service managed land.

Gold Mining in the Black Hills

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The first Europeans in the Black Hills were gold prospectors and miners. The histories of towns such as Deadwood, Hill City and Keystone are rich with gold mining history were made famous first in dime novels and later in film and television.

     Keystone, for instance, is the home of the Holy Terror Mine, which closed in 1927 after nearly 40 years of of-and-on production. It's said there's still lots of gold down there, but the mine, which was always dangerous to work, flooded from numerous underground springs. Deadwood, of course, is the most famous Black Hills town for its gold mining history and then there isThe Roosevelt Inn of Keystone Hill City, which was once the most notorious gold rush towns.

     For those who wish to delve deeply, there are literally hundrends of books about mining in the Black Hills and they range from technical to ridiculous. Many are available at book stores and tourist attractions throughout the Black Hills.

     For a quick sample of gold mining history, there are three tours available: Keystone's Big Thunder Gold Mine, ( Deadwood's Broken Boot ( Lead's Homestake Visitor Center (  Although not a mine, the Museum of Mining in Lead  is great spot to learn about gold mining in the Lead and Deadwood area.  The Big Thunder and Broken Boot mines are seasonal tourist attractions. The Museum of Mining is open all year, but some exhibits are closed in the off-season.

      Gold panning is still popular throughout the Hills. There are numerous roadside attractions offering gold panning, but if you want to drive up to Rochford, you can spend a whole day working a real, operating placer gold mine claim. (You get to keep all the gold you find.)    If you know where to look, you can still pan for gold -- successfully -- in many of the streams of the Black Hills. It's a popular pastime for people who live here.

     One attraction we find interesting is Wade's Gold Mill near Hill City. 
This is an actual working gold mill where they process ore from a nearby placer deposit.  They have a lot of antique gold mining equipment, including a working stamp mill, and they even offer gold panning lessons.

     For the adventurous -- and the experienced -- there are hundreds of "ghost mines" throughout the Black Hills. These are often hard to find, but sometimes they suddenly just appear when you are walking in the forest. There are quite a few in the Keystone/Hill City area. These mines were often for minerals other than gold however. The Keystone Historical Museum also has information about Keystone's early gold mining history.

A word of caution however: Abandoned mines can be dangerous places. Most are located on private property so you shouldn't even be near them. Some, however, are on public land. If you should happen to run across an abandoned gold mine never, ever go inside. These mines are often 100 years or more old and they are prone to cave in at the least disturbance. Also, many contain deep shafts -- some as much as a thousand feet -- so you wouldn't want to fall in.

     If you are interested in the ghost mines of the Black Hills, there are experienced guides who can take you to some of the better sites. 

 Updated Oct 26, 2007
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