Wenatchee National Forest, Washington, 1996
by Ann Fink, District Archaeologist
A contingent of eight volunteers willingly thrashed through the brush on the shore of Lake Chelan in the Wenatchee National Forest in Washington to follow historical railroad grades, a flume line, and an inclined railroad trestle. All of these features were part of the story surrounding the development of the Holden Copper Mine, but many were merely part of the hype and promotion of the early mining district. Several adits were found, carved only a few feet into the bedrock, as was a railroad grade to nowhere. This grade began to climb the hillside, only to end in a talus field a mere 50 feet in elevation above its starting point, but well beyond the sight of potential investors. A second grade began the long climb from Lucerne to the Holden Mines; perhaps it actually arrived, but because of time constraints and a heavy load of spring snow, we couldn’t find out. We also found the remains of a flume that appeared to be complete, but National Archive documents indicate that this too, was a fraud—for the side boards “were merely a foot high . . . and appeared to be the work of a schoolboy.” The one feature that ever really worked was the incline tramway, used to haul equipment and barrels until a road could be completed to the Holden Mines. We used a GPS unit to locate all of these transportation features and produce a base map.
The volunteers were in the field from April 15 to 19, 1996, for a total of 300 hours. Despite the unpredictable spring weather, we were able to enjoy a survey excursion in the Forest Service dinghy, a hike to a lake, and a trip to the retreat community of Holden Village. The last event coincided with the completion of the monumental snow-plowing job on the mountain road. We drove the last six miles between mounds of snow reaching 6–7 feet high and then trekked a quarter of a mile to visit the museum at the mouth of the mine.
This survey gave us our first systematic heritage data on the “port” town of Lucerne. This small community is part of the Holden Mine Historic District, but it has been overshadowed by the more picturesque Holden townsite and mine. This season’s work will allow us to literally put Lucerne on the map.