Quest for Mine Entrance – Cedar Mountain Coal Mine

As many of you know who follow my Coal Hunter Series, part of my quest is to visit where these mine entrances are located. This is even though all have been bulldozed over and forgotten even by those who live nearby.

Cedar Mountain aka West Coast Coal Mine east of the Cedar River poses a challenge. There are no direct roads to area of the mine entrance. It is bordered by a river, a quarry with tall cliffs down to the river, power transmission lines, Cedar Grove Composting and the very large Cedar Hills Regional Landfill. Check out this map so you can see what I mean.

Map showing lack of access to Cedar Mountain Coal Mine Entrance

What is a girl to do? Well she develops a plan and reviews the options. The best ones for me were as follows:

  • Walk down from the Transmission Lines via the Quarry
  • Bushwhack through the woods and briers from the same Quarry
  • Wade across the Cedar River to the area.

We are going to start with the quarry access options first. It seemed the most viable after I had inspected many maps and views of the area. The best idea was to walk up through the area and then down to the mine area following the transmission lines right-a-way. I could see trails and roads that made good candidates for my success.

I drove across the Jones River Bridge and parked next to the quarry’s gated entrance. Looked like they had been closed for a long time. Found a King County Notice of Land Use Sign very informative on it’s most recent use.

This quarry was used for dumping tons of material from the Highway 99 tunnel. This tunnel replaced the now demolished Seattle Waterfront Viaduct which was built in 1953 and earthquake damaged. The new piece of highway including the 2 mile long double decker tunnel was opened on February 4, 2019.

Gate to quarry above the mine entrance I seek
Notice Sign Board from 2015 to import 300,000 cubic yards of material from tunnel project

Climbed through the gate and hiked up the steep road. Not sure what I would find but had a plan laid out to traverse the quarry via the roads I could see on the maps. Over on the east side hike down the transmission line.

Looking down the quarry entrance road towards Jones Road

When I got to the top I found I was overshadowed by the largest pile of rock and dirt I could ever imagine. Think of how much dirt must have come from a 2 mile tunnel It is all here and covered in sheeting to manage the erosion of this monster dirt pile. They seemed to have abandoned machinery when they closed shop. Perhaps it was damaged and not salvageable or would be useful if they got more material at a later date.

Top of road and found huge mountain of tunnel debris
Washer used when they were trucking in rock/dirt from Seattle
Climbing higher up looking back at the tunnel dirt pile

Off to the left of the photo if you fought the brier and small trees you would be standing at the top of a very tall dangerous cliff. I photographed how it looked down on the river from the Jones Bridge.

The cliff next to Cedar River from the Jones Bridge – Imagine being on top of that?

It seemed like the towering pile was really multiple piles one behind the other. Further up I encountered more machinery just left in place.

The material pile looms over deserted dozer

Around that corner I hiked and finally had the power lines in sight. From there I was sure I could scramble down to the mine area.

The road around the quarry getting closer to the powerlines

You can’t really see it but there is a side road about center photo. It follows along the contours of the ridge. Marked that in my mind as an option for later.

I got to a big bend in the dirt road where it met the transmission lines. From there I had a great view of the terrain all around. I took a video and some stills of the area so you can see the river far below and Cedar Mountain with the power lines continuing into the distance.

Cedar Mountain in the distance with the river and highway below
The sound you hear is the highway down below.

At the curve in the road was a small trail down into tall dry grass. I scrambled down that and avoided some piles of poop. At first I thought it was dog but came to the conclusion it was bear or cat. Deer scat was around so they had meat and berries all in one place. YIKES!!

That little side trip was a bust. There was no way off this ledge without tangling with huge blackberry bushes. So, I went back up and pondered that other option I had noticed on my way up.

At this point I still had some hope of making it to the mine. However, I was beginning to realize it would be a big climb up and down due to the elevation above the river valley. To show you the terrain I found this map view of the quarry’s topographic features. Check it out.

iMap topographic hillshade of West Coast Mine with quarry

Found this map after my return. Little did I know just how much of a hill I was tackling.

I went ahead and made one more attempt at getting down the slope by going back to the old road. There I pulled out my pruning shears and clipped my way down the road through the ever increasing berry brier.

View back at the road I would clip my way thru the blackberries

Looking at it from up above it did not look too bad. Meaning the brier was tamed by the old road. However, when I was down in the thicket, I found the thorns not so much fun.

Looking back to the dirt mountain after clipping my way downward

At this point the road became just like the brushes up on the power line. They were forming one big pile. Whoever had gone before me diverted from the road and started straight down the hill. They had chopped a path that descended steeply downward. No it had started to grow over and more pruning was required.

The path lead down the hill into the forest below
The path was like going down the Alice in Wonderland Rabbit Hole

That dark area is the hole I would have to navigate downward. You can see it was not very tantalizing any more. I had a chat with myself of how much did I want to be poked and scratched as I slipped downward through the brier? Could I keep my balance and clip the overhanging vines? What about the return trip? What was it going to be like once I got to my target area? Would I be able to bushwhack through or deal with the tangled wild brush there?

As I have said in my earlier posts this is where safety and reward versus harm would guide my decision. I turned back. Finding the mine was not worth breaking bones, getting stuck nor being seriously scratched. The quarry route was a dead end. Looking at the topographical map above I have to say it was the right decision.

We now are to the third option on the table. Wading across the river. During one of my visits to Belmondo’s Reach I went to a place where I think the old bridge used to cross over to the mine.

While I ate my lunch on the shore I watched a lady and her dog over on the small island. The river had created this sand bar between me and the mine area. I wondered how she got there.

Then I watched her ford the river. It wasn’t too deep nor swift here. It came up over her knees about mid thigh. Her dog swam part of the way. Check out the spot.

Cedar River shallow ford area to Mine Entrance

With my failure to get down the hill on the north side this ford seemed more and more the only option I had left. For the next couple of weeks I pondered the safety and feasibility of wading to the mine area.

It was possible, it was summer and the river was not very high. I visualized what I would wear and how I would dry off and change in my car upon returning. How I would protect my camera and cell phone by using a bag around my neck or in a backpack.

What would I do if I fell down? Could I get back up or would I be swept down the river? Would it ruin my electronics? Would I drown? If I got to the island could I get over the river on the other side? Laying awake at night I pondering all this and I knew David would not want me to try this.

Then Ken from the Black Diamond Museum and I were texting back and forth. He said he had gone over there safely once but the blackberries were too much for him.

Bingo!! That coupled with all my worrying around fording the river made the decision for me. Too many obstacles are usually there for a reason. I needed to listen to my inner voice. I would NOT cross the river. Instead I would walk down the trail and get a better photo from afar and call it good.

The West Coast (aka Cedar Mountain) Coal Mine area from Cedar River Trail

Here is my photo. It shows you the area where the biggest Cedar Mountain Mine Entrance was dug beginning in 1888 and closed in 1944. It is deep in the trees that are in the background. Imagine the activity and bustle this little peninsula sustain for decades.

I have a bit more to share on this second mine area. I have accumulated quite a bit of history around the owners and how they mined. Plus I have researched and visited three more mine entrances up on the mountain. Stay tuned!!

If you want to read more about my search for Lost Coal Mines here is a link to my directory of articles.

Shoot me any questions or better yet any information you have to add. This is a never ending deep dig into 100 years of old coal mine history.

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a town can disappear!

Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County

One comment

  1. […] This all points to him buying and making a success of the mine across the river where a fault had caused closure in the 1890s. As a refresher see the map below. The mine I am referencing is labeled the second & largest mine (on the right side of map). It is the mine shaft that I could not physically get too. Quest for Mine Entrance Article […]

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