Coal Creek Mine Ruins – 100 years later

Nestled behind a busy city of townhouses, shopping and a mall is a park formed around a place that hundreds of people lived and worked mining coal. You are aghast! How can that be in the suburbs of Seattle a coal mine exists?

Truth be told the coal mine is now plugged up, the mill is gone and the many houses of the workers are erased like they never existed. This is Cougar Mountain Park. Come along on my adventure around the trails to discover how things can change in 100 years.

My first destination was Coal Creek Waterfall. I stopped in Renton and bought a breakfast sandwich and a cup of tea. My plan was to hike to the waterfall and have brunch while I inhaled nature.

I had printed my trail map and plotted a course. Don’t be fooled. This park is honeycombed with trails and sights. The waterfall is only one of many places to visit. Red Town trail-head is where I started. I left my car, put my gloves on and headed up the steady slope. Got to love the names of the trails. The next was Cave Hole Trail.  Have to go back and check out that destination. My course was half way up the hill I would take a right onto Coal Creek Falls Trail.

But before getting to the trail cutoff I found the first sign of mining. It was a deep depression off to the side of the trial. The sign and small fence tells it all.

I dare you to go down here!

Step back and this is what the small fence looks like. Not sure it really keeps the determined out but then again, do you want to sink into a mine shaft?

Not my idea of adventure to cross this fence!

Look close. This is what the bottom looks like. It does have a squishy appearance under all the logs and branches. God help he who thinks that might be a fun place to play.

Someone toiled here – hope they got rich

I resisted the temptation and moved on up the hill to the Y in the trail. Until then the trail was really a small dirt road and it made me think this had been a road for years before the park made it a trail. When I took the turnoff, it miraculously changed to a real woodland trail.

Now we are talking and I got excited that the waterfall would be as special as I had hoped. I sipped my tea and carried on down the trail. It was quiet except birds chirping.

Then I heard it and I looked down into a ravine thinking the babbling brook was it. One never knows when seeking woodland wonders. Would it be spectacular or not?

Can you hear it?

It was not a disappointment. A small bridge crossed the creek at the bottom of a lovely waterfall. The recent rainfall had made it full tilt!

Coal Creek Waterfall – March 2017

It just poured from the top of a flat rock face and rushed down another couple of stair steps. I crossed the little bridge and started a video. What the heck!!  My good camera’s battery died right off. What the heck was not my exact words!!

But this girl has a spare. Not only do I carry my Nikon but I also have a small Canon Elph and as a last resort my smart phone. I hate to say I prefer my real cameras to the phone. However, that last option would have done in a pinch.

Check out the difference in the clarity between the two cameras.  Now you know why I cussed a little when my Nikon’s battery failed.

I climbed off to the left. There I found a perch to eat my brunch and savor my tea. I watched a few folks wandered by and some seemed to dance in the joy of the sound and sight. My plan had paid off. I really did enjoy the place and time by sitting up on the side taking my time.

The trail’s bridge below the falls from my perch

Off to my left was the falls. I was up on the side of the ravine and could look down on the lower falls but still upward on the main view.

Falls in all its glory

Waiting and watching can bring a special moment. As I sat there inhaling the negative ions and the peace of the setting, the sun came out. It brought a glow of to the side of the falls and here is my attempt at capturing for you to behold.

Sun peeking out at me

Then it was time to go. I captured this parting sight of the area as I trekked up the trail. Oh.. I forgot to tell you how I cleaned up some obnoxious orange peels left at the side of the creek. I climbed up and buried them. Did not like how that orange looked so out-of-place in the sweet green wonderland.

One look back as I left the magic

Onward I walked up the hill and  I met a small family at another fork in the road (trail). They had two preschoolers and one of the was directing how to go. We joked at the sign post. They went north as I went Southwest on Quarry Trail.

Down I went on the trail following a small creek in a ravine. Got to the bottom and turned to the right onto the Indian Trail This is a small leg to get me back to Red Town Trail and my way back to civilization.

Blazing green greeted me as I wandered my way home. It was not just any green but glowing color contrasted against the grey cliff rocks. It appears the cliff fell down in huge chunks and created a place for fairies.

Vivid green moss rock tumble

How could I help but to investigate when I saw a natural entrance before me. It was like giants put two stones together just for me.

Shall we go through the door?

How can one resist thinking of the Lord of the Rings and pass into the fairy tale.

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I did go back through the hole and came back to the trail. I had places to go and things to see. The fairies couldn’t hold me even with the verdant green soothing all the world’s worries away.

Last look back

It is history time! I knew this was an old coal mine but did not really understand what that meant. Then I came to what is called the meadow. On my little map it calls it a restoration project. That made me think it was just a lovely place that was replanted with native plants.

Cross the creek to the meadow & discover history

Once I got across Coal Creek I saw a gated garden place and several information boards about it. The first one is where I realized that the meadow isn’t just an old cow pasture. I was where Red Town and the other local miner communities played baseball. In the above photo you can see that sign in the upper right corner. What got me the most was how it said I was standing on second base. That made my imagination take off to another time. How could that be? There is no town, no foundations, no signs of anything 100 years old here.

Meadow history board
If this land could tell it’s story
Looking back from 2nd base… gives you more perspective

It was time to start home and so I walked back along the creek. There was trail on both sides of it here. The side where the meadow is and then the original trail I had left to cross into the magic place. It gave me a lovely babbling brook moment with mossy rocks and rushing water soothing the soul.

Mossy trees along the trail home
Mossy trees and rushing creek

Then I was on the Red Town Trail again. It is more of a road than a trail. It did dawn on me that was probably due to it being a road long ago.  At least my imagination wanted to think that. Another sign board gave me history and geology. That sparked me to look from side to side as I walked back. Where could I see a foundation or a hint of an old house. Not to be. This place of many homes was gone.

This was a busy place long ago.
Today it is just trees and ferns

This next picture is of Coal Creek Mine. That sight is near where the parking lot is and the road to the park actually drives right over the closed opening. Most folks have no clue it is even there.

More industry that was.
Still searching for ruins! but none to be found

I continued walking back towards home looking at the trees for signs of the old. Then I saw a small section of old fence. That was all I ever saw up on Red Town Trail.

One small trace of old fencing.

There was a sign to Rainbow Town Trail. It said there was an exhibit called Ford Slope coal mining exhibit. No longer was I going directly home. I had to go see that.  So, off the main trail I turned. Immediately I started seeing vent pipes coming out of the ground. As I traveled down the hill there was a sign warning of cave ins and the load limit was 5,000 pounds.

Then I saw my first ruin. It is some cement and metal part of a building.

Ruins near Ford Slope Mine entrance
Does it have 1921 as a date?

Then ahead was the exhibit with that coal car you see at the top of the blog post.

Ford Slope Mine exhibit & entrance to coal mine

I am getting excited now. There is an information board and obviously something to see where that fence is.

Plugged entrance to Ford Slope Coal Mine

There it is!!  History at my boot tips. Imagination can take flight and time stands still. A sort of twilight zone comes upon me as I read the board and see the picture of the miners right where I stand.

I am standing right where they are in this photo. The mine entrance is to the left.
Info explaining the miner photo.
See the “H” mentioned above?

That “H’ is where a huge piece of machinery once stood. One would never know if they had not put the signage up for us.

Goose Bumps form up thinking of what was and what is now.

Ford Slope Mine

I had to walk away. Home was calling. I wanted to be in my comfortable 2017 life even more. So, I pulled myself out of my reverie and left the time warp.

Looking back onto the info board.

Down by the coal car were some pieces of pipe and cement. Just little tidbits of the past to tease us.

Some mining debris for us time travelers
Final look back at Ford Slope Mine

I walked away shaking my head, crossed the creek and noticed how it had eroded the area recently. Dangerous place for sure. The next trail I took was Bagley Seam Trail. It promises a visible coal seam.

So, upward I trekked back out of the depression the coal mine was in. This trail was in a gully which I figure was man-made to get at the coal.

Coal seam exposed here
Coal in the ground.

It was interesting but kind of anti climatical after my escaping the time warp.

I leave you with a map of Coal Creek 1928 plus the mines. Contemplate this piece of civilization gone with the photos of the water fall.

From here I traveled back to my car and drove away with a much greater appreciation of how nature and man can change the landscape. First to destroy it with heavy mining and then by removing all traces of that major activity. AMAZING!!


  1. What an amazing place. And yes, I could hear, smell and feel the walk with you.

    Apocalyptic landscape: our cities in some other future?

    Will Trump re-open the mine, do you think? (Bad joke)

    • Glad you saw the old ore car I donated to the Park. I wish you had met Milt Swanson before he passed away. He mined the Ford Slope until 1967 and lived just across the street. He was a living museum of Eastside mining memories.

      • I have heard so much about Milt. He saved another coal car that is now over in the original Newcastle area. Hope someone will save it and put it someplace special.

        Have you read my articles on the shack on the hill thru the gate? It turns out next to that are the foundations of the old Electric Building for the mines. Milt used to own that property but he donated it to Bellevue Parks so it could be preserved.

        Another seeker Alan and I think the shack was one of the little buildings along the old railroad connecting the mine.

    • Amazing History! Milt got his mine car from the Ford Slope Mine the last day it was in operation in 1967. He asked his boss if he could have it for a souvenir! He also rode his speeder on abandoned railroad tracks across the nation into his 80’s. Truly a man after my own heart!

      • wow – I got so in love with the railroads working on the Veazie stories. Walked miles of old NPRR track just north or Enumclaw. Want to go back and look along the track close to Cumberland for some old relics on the maps.

        Milt was a treasure. He sure left a great legacy.

      • Have you ever walked the long abandoned parallel RR roadbeds which run through Durham? I found a collapsed mineshaft up there once with a piece of rusted narrow gauge sticking out of it + the foundation of the old Hotel.

      • I have driven by Durham a year or so ago to try to figure out where it is. Did some reading but never got out tromping thru the brush. There is so much to see along that piece of deserted NPRR track. I have downloaded the old plat maps of the NPRR & Milwaukie which have all kinds of cool things to find. Couple that with some coal mne maps. Bingo stuff to find for a good decade to come.

        Plus I love that drive out there. Started going thru Hobart, Ravensdale and then past Kanaskat-Palmer to get down to veazie & Cumberland. The drive alone set my soul on fire.

      • Agreed! BTW, the tracks are still in place further down Kanasket-Kangley Road (I assume heading towards Lester)?

      • Did you find the Baima House in the original Newcastle? I believe it’s the oldest surviving house in King County. Just below the south end of the strip mine turned golf course.

  2. I have seen the old Baima House. Been talking to a member of the Newcastle Historical group. He told me they might be moving that house. Guess a very friendly developer bought the area and wants to be sure everything that can be saved will be. Time will tell.

    FYI – that guy called me because he is researching John McQuade. I guess John aka Jack also owned and tried to make a go of the May Valley Coal Mine. He was also involved in a small RR built down that valley from the big trestle that went to Newcastle. Kind of filled in a gap I had in McQuades life story. Plus he turned me onto Wagon road maps on King Co archives. Super cool from the 1879 to 1881 period.

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