I managed a two-day outing to another group of high mines in "deepest Idaho." South Mountain sets near the Oregon border on the western edge of the Owyhee desert & has a mining history that goes back to the 1860's. The mines there mostly produced lead & zinc along with some silver & copper & achieved their most productive years in the 1940's & early 50's. They have now mostly slumbered for 65 years, but still hold substantial ore reserves. For the last 15 or so years much exploration work has been done on them, but fears that the mountain-top & BLM fire lookout would be replaced by an open-pit mine have not been realized, yet.
Fire lookout at center left from my first mine hike of the day
My abusive rock-hound parents dragged me to South Mountain when I was a teenager & forced me to look for old bottles, small mining artifacts, & mineral specimens. All I can remember finding is the box of mineral specimens I still have. Heidi & I went back in 2007 & enjoyed the wonderful solitude & terrific sunsets from the high treeless ridge the fire lookout sets on. There are of course, no developed campsites & no amenities, which is just the way we like it.
Looking south at the Owyhee highlands & my SUV from the lookout.
One of many open mine shafts.
I was at a mine about 400 vertical feet under the summit on the east side when two Air force fighters cleared the summit by about 100' & roared off east. The dot in center of this photo is the 2nd jet.
Most of South Mountain is a "Skarn" where semi-molten granite was uplifted millions of years ago into still more ancient limestone. It produced the ores that got mined & some minerals only of interest to collectors. Most of those minerals are on private lands, but some areas are still available, although 150 years of mineral collecting there has made collecting challenging.
Here;s a big chunk of calcite, with sprays of Skarn iron minerals, brownish Hedenbergite & black Ilvaite. I left it in place.
But, there is still the glorious sunsets & awesome sunrises.
And even though I had to share my camp with cows, moonrise with cow is a rare photo opportunity.
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