Up on the Southwest flank of Tiger Mountain State Forest sits a group of old coal mines. They have gone by many names during their 20 plus year run from 1925 to apx 1950. Caroline Coal Mine, Tiger Mountain Mine, and Bear Creek Yards Coal Mine are the various names you might hear.
Today this old mining area is found along a trail called the Grand Canyon at Fifteenmile Creek. Originally one would enter the back dirt road miles away and wind over to this nice little parking lot. It even had a place to offload horses and park your bicycles. Today this all seems to be in disrepair and behind locked forest service gates.
First let us start with the historical research I did on the Caroline Mine. A fellow WordPress Blogger had in 2019 wrote an article after taking the Issaquah Museum Tour. They wanted to learn more about the place they played as a child on Tiger Mountain. Their Blog is called “The View from a Drawbridge”. My Thanx to them! You will find quotes and photos that I am including. Here is a link so you can read the full post. Click here!
This set of mines had some exciting stuff happen here. First there was a stock scam and then a few years after that a high profile kidnapping. Gosh not run of the mill history!!
The Stock Scam came in 1932 and here is what my fellow blogger said about it:
I learned about the stock scam. An investor named Raymond Carr claimed to have purchased the rights on Tiger Mountain and named the mine after his wife Caroline. It produced enough coal to provide the appearance of production, and in 1932 Mr. Carr sold $200,000 worth of stock in the mine to people on the east coast of the United States. To his downfall, he also sold $200 worth to a Dr. Malcolm Wise on nearby Mercer Island. The Doctor was excited to own a portion of a coal mine that was less than twenty miles from his home, so he visited the mine. That’s how he discovered that Mr. Carr had no rights to sell stock. The State Securities Department got involved, and the local lawsuit opened the flood gates to the lawsuits from the east coast.The View from a Drawbridge WordPress Blog
Then we have the kidnapping of 9 year old George Weyerhaeuser in 1935. Yes this is the timber Weyerhaeuser Family. History Link has a detailed article about this if you want to read more. Weyerhaeuser Kidnapping
The other discovery made on my backyard tour was that a high profile crime was related to the Caroline Mine. For the entire story of the Weyerhaeuser kidnapping, you can visit this site. It seems that after days of being driven around the western states, the 9-year-old heir to the family fortune was left tied up in the guard shack at the mine. When he escaped, he followed the road out of the forest, and his trail to freedom crossed the property where I grew up.The View from a Drawbridge WordPress Blog
That is a lot of scandal for these little coal mines! Are you ready to see what is left there today over 80 years later?
First thing you will see are twin concrete pillars. Signage further up the trail calls this the Crushery. I also found on an old mine map that these were the old and new bunker locations. I assume that it was a processing area that did it all, from crushing the coal to the desired size, and loading the coal onto trucks/rail for delivery to market.
As often happens to the Coal Mine Hunter I go home and noodle what I missed. I returned just this last week for a second look at things. One of my missions was to find an original mine from the 1920s on a 1935 map. It sits atop a hill that is to the right in the above photo. It mentions both old bunkers and the incline/bunker. Due to the stickers this search would have to wait till winter. Perhaps these hunks of cement are the old bunker or incline supports.
Moving along, here is how the deserted parking area looks.
Nothing like close ups of mossy cement structures to those that love old mines and town sites.
A few steps down the path one will find more cement pillars. First a pair on the left which again this could be crushery or bunker supports.
Just a bit further along the trail is another set of foundations. One on each side of the trail.
Enough of these old cement structures. Hope it becomes clear what they were either when you see the signage by the DNR or someone with knowledge pipes in and adds clarity.
A quick brisk walk gets one to a bridge over a small stream. Don’t let this stream fool you. When it gets going it is a raging torrent. Here is the trail bridge with a bit of mining debris still in the creek.
This hike was looking better and better when I saw this large pipe in the creek bed. Here are some better photos of it.
Next the DNR signage a little up the trail. This area is a small meadow and it must have been a big processing area. Why else is there such a flat area that has limited trees on it? The sign has a little history and then a map of the trail and the sites to be seen.
This is the map that I mentioned earlier. It states that the cement foundations at the trailhead were the Crushery and the Washery off to the left.
Time to get orientated to the mines with a 1940 coal mine map from the DNR site. This map as I was to discover is not 100% perfect but let us start with something we can all agree on. The washery is clearly noted on this map. We have no doubt where we are standing on this map.
See how this map shows the mine road as a fairly straight line up to the mine across the creek. As you will see shortly that is not how the world is nor was it in the past. Still a good tool.
Off I went up the trail which DNR map says is the old railroad grade. As we move along a hill rises on the right. I keep looking for signs of the mine entrance that you can see on the 1940 mine map not far from the washery. Never figured out a definite location.
To my surprise I came to a major creek crossing. This is not Fifteenmile Creek but rather a larger tributary. It is not on the map nor is the jog in the road on it either. I believe it was always this way. That is because I found the mine road on a 1953 USGS map and it followed this same jog across the stream.
Here is the upper area of the 1940 mine map where you can see it continues in a straight line and no mention at all of this tributary creek.
This creek had had a major flooding episode and washed out the old bridge. It detoured us hikers over a big flat log to cross the now calm creek.
Then in the side of the hill up a little path was this tube sticking out. Nothing was on my old mine map for this location. Nor did it even show this zig zag to the old road/rail. To my surprise this tube held the medallion of the USDI or United States Department of Interior – Office of Surface Mining with coordinates of the mine they were closing.
Let’s get a bit closer to the mine.
There was another interesting relic of mining at this crossing. Under the bridge and protruding out of it was a big pipe. Somehow they had to get water to the washery and this must have been one of their avenues.
The trail paralleled this tributary of Fifteenmile Creek. Then it turned and the grand canyon of Tiger Mtn came into view. What a canyon Fifteenmile Creek had carved out over the centuries. On one side is the canyon below and the other is a rock wall. They must have blasted thru here to get enough room for a road/rail.
All along I thought we would come to a place where we could either ford the creek or look across it to an open but gated mine entrance. My feature image above has many similar ones found on the internet and the 1940 mine map lead me to believe it was across the creek.
So, when I came to a fork in the trail I was puzzled. Wanting to save the best for last I decided to go up and come back for the photographic gated mine. Soon I started seeing orange nasty mine ooze in the hillside ditch. A mine was near for sure.
Around another corner and a sign stood there talking about how coal is formed and a short path beside it. The ooze came from that direction.
Then there she was. The famous mine entrance. What the heck!! This is no where near the creek. Like I said the map was not as complete as one would think. It is a warning to all of us who use these maps from decades ago.
My fellow blog writer tells us why this mine was not totally buried. It had to do with the old stock scheme and the kidnapping plot. So the USDI did not totally seal it leaving it to the Washington DNR to do the deed. Instead they used this grate.
See that little round object at the top of the gate? That is another USDI Office of Surface Mining Seal. It calls the mine Tiger Mountain which is the generic name of what I think was at least 4 different operations. From my research they are The original that had the incline close to the now deserted park parking lot, The Mine across from the washery, The Caroline Mine and lastly the Bear Creek Yards Mine. From what my fellow blogger states, I think this is the Caroline Mine Entrance.
I took a short video of the mine entrance. I cut off my narrative at the end. What I am trying to say is the mine ooze drains out into Fifteenmile Creek below. Not very environmentally conscious!
Part of me wanted to see what was behind the grating. It looked orange just like the gunk draining out. I set my camera up with zoom and flash. This is what I got. Not the best but you can see what appears to be a collapse or something they used to seal the shaft.
How about a look at this mine before it was sealed? My fellow blogger had found this old photo.
The trail continued upward. I was hoping to get to the point where the old Bear Creek Yards mine had an upper entrance. My mine map said it caved in around July of 1940. Along the way I took a few photos of the gorge/canyon with the creek rushing below.
There is this odd barren slope that I came upon. From the fellow blogger who wrote about this mine area we get a great story about it.
On the tour, we continued our walk beyond the Caroline mine, and several hundred feet further along the trail, our tour guide stopped along a crumbling hillside that I’d climbed dozens of times in my youth. At the top of the hill, among the layers of shale we would find rocks embedded with amber. Rock-hounds from near and far, following the lead in their guidebooks, would come searching for this amber, and the road to this location just happened to cross our property. For obvious reasons this hill was known to the family and friends as Amber Hill.
Our tour guide asked if we could guess why nothing grows on the hillside of exposed rock, and naturally we guessed that it was because of the shale. He then explained that just a few inches below the surface is a concrete cap that sealed off the air shaft to the Caroline mine. What?! It should have occurred to me that there was a solid reason why nothing grew on that slope; nature reclaims everything in that forest, and it swiftly overgrows and covers everything. And it turns out that there’s a concrete reason!
Just as the mine itself was draining water from the hillside, so did that airshaft while it was uncovered. Apparently the water flowing from both hillside openings was so great at the time that in order to bring coal from the Bear Creek Yards Mine, they needed to build a bridge to cross both the outflows. But concrete was plentiful at mine projects and bridges were expensive, so the decision was made to seal the upper cave entrance and build just one bridge.The View from a Drawbridge WordPress Blog
Then the formal end of the trail came. I surmise that this was to tell horse riders to turn around. Of course I had to continue on to see what was around the corner. Maybe a view of the upper mine entrance was just a few steps away.
Around the corner was a massive slide that gutted the old trail. Others have forged a new route but I decided it was too dangerous for a solo hiker to attempt. No one would be there to save me if I slide down the hill into the canyon.
Here is a photo from The View from a Drawbridge WordPress Blog of the Bear Creek Yards Mine Entrance. Was this the upper one I was trying to get to or the lower one. I suspect it is the lower entrance because the 1940 mine map has a rail bridge marked. His recollection that goes with this is the rails hung out over the canyon for years.
I turned around and went back down to the fork in the trail. Took the lower flat trail and came to a viewpoint of the creek’s waterfall that is published as a sight to see.
I have come to think this viewing area of the waterfall used to be where a bridge crossed the creek to an entrance to the Bear Creek Yards Coal Mine. What convinced me is some cement foundations on the cliff side behind some fencing. This could be one of three things. Two are identified on the 1940 mine map; a Generator House and a Raw Coal Bin. The third option is this is the foundation to the bridge that is now gone.
Let us go back to the old mine map. Here is a marked up copy with my assumptions of which ones we found. On this I have marked the two sealed Caroline Mine entrances; the gated one and the one by the creek. Also, I have have arrows showing where the BearCreek Yards Mine entrances are. Hope this brings some clarity to what we found on the ground and on the maps.
As I mentioned earlier I returned to see if I can sort out where that old mine was above the parking lot. I also wanted to see the remains of the Bear Creek Yards mine entrance across the river by the waterfall and walk further down the road to where a bridge crosses FifteenMile Creek.
The walk down the road gave me a better understanding of the creek and it’s tributaries. There are more dead-end roads and trails that once ran through the area. The road winds down into the creek’s gully and I finally came to the bridge. On google earth I thought it might be up really high over the creek but it was just an average crossing.
I did not have any success looking for buried mine openings at the trailhead or near the washery. What I did find was vandalism at the two marked mine entrances. (I reported this to the DNR so they can be repaired).
First we have the mine entrance near the washed out bridge. As I got ready to cross the log bridge I saw a long piece of pipe in the creek bed. Ahhh… more mine debris I thought and went to investigate. To my surprise the pipe had the USDI seal on the end. I then knew where it had come from. This pipe is really heavy and it took several people to get it this far. Thank goodness for it’s weight or it would have disappeared into someone’s back yard never to be seen again.
I quickly got to the mine entrance and saw that they had tried to dig into the foam that was used on the mine closure. My fellow blogger mentioned this method being used but I had not way of knowing on my first trip it was this mine entrance.
One that I had once walked about fifty feet into was filled with liquid Styrofoam, a particularly non-ecological method that is no longer used. (Think of the expanding foam known as “great-stuff”.)The View from a Drawbridge WordPress Blog
From the picture above you can see the foam did it’s job to stop stupid people from entering an old mine.
This made me concerned about the gated rock tunnel of the Caroline Mine up the trail. It is surrounded by gunky mud and water but these people were determined so I hurried up there. I discovered they had been there too. They pried off one of the grate’s boards.
My guess is the gunk was more than they bargained for and once they could see into the tunnel they saw that it had caved in on itself years ago.
My last mission was to locate the mine entrance across the creek from the look out area. I found two possible locations. Looking across the creek there is no remnant of a platform or old road. It is just steep canyon walls. Either mother nature has taken her own back, or when the bridge was removed they buried her forever or lastly I am still in the wrong location.
With my binoculars I examined the cliff area. Not only do I think it might be the brushy area but I found a hole high up above this area. If it isn’t the mine itself perhaps it is the fan entrance hole.
Wow what a great investigation of Caroline Coal Mine and a ton of information to digest. Hope you enjoyed another Lost Mine of King County adventure.
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. Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County
Remember Times are a changing. Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a town can disappear!