Pilings? In the Cedar River!

Those are not rocks I said to the guy picking blackberries in early September this year. He said “What?”

Let me backtrack a bit here. Years ago when I started my Cedar Mountain lost ghost town and coal mines adventure, a fellow seeker, Brett H., sent me a photo of some trestle pilings exposed in the Cedar River.

Brett H’s photo of pilings in the Cedar River 2015

Here is the other photo Brett took of these remnants of a trestle over the river to a coal mine.

2015 photo of pilings by Brett at Cedar Mountain

Took several years of monitoring the river for me to actually see these little treasures of the past. Before we get to my photos and video how about a refresher in what this is all about.

Per the publication The Coal Fields of King County in 1912 by George Watkin Evans:

The Cedar Mountain Coal Mine closed the first mine and opened another one in 1888. That first slope was abandoned and that next one was moved to the opposite side of river. They sunk a slope of 500 feet.

At some point this mine closed too because they ran into the fault. This fault tormented all of the first mines in the area. Eventually all were closed. Then around 1917 thru 1920 some serious prospecting started to find the coal seam beyond that fault. These searches were lead by the Jones Brothers and Jack McQuade.

McQuade worked both sides of the river but found great success when he reopened that one across the river in the mid-1920s. This is a very abbreviated history of the mines and I have found a lot of the history is conflicting. So, please understand that when quoting me.

Let us turn to a map. Who doesn’t love maps to explain and bring some solid facts to our research.

Starting with the oldest map dated 1926 on the DNR Coal Mine Map Collection. This map shows just the beginning of the new mine by McQuade past the fault but more exciting it tried to diagram the old diggings from several decades before. I read in some article that McQuade just blew his way thru the fault to dig a new slope.

On all of these maps the old mine is denoted with big stroked dashed lines. In some of the a later maps they had a legend and disclaimer that reads:

Full Lines – Known Conditions

Broken Lines – Probable Condition of Old Workings

Dotted Lines – Old Auxiliary Slope and workings are shown in dotted lines. They are from information given by parties who worked in this part of the mine. Opinions differed and the workings as shown are taken from information which we considered the most reliable.

R.W. Smith – Chief Mine Engineer – July 1, 1927
1926 K-42A West Coast Coal Mine – Cedar Mtn

A few more notes on this map. That diagonal heavy dashed line just to the left of the main slope is the dastardly fault. The new slope starts in the middle of this map and runs down to the bottom. Then we have the new gangways in the lower section right where McQuade blew through the fault. They are heading off to the left (south) and the right (north).

Our next map is from 1932. The mine is now run by the West Coast Fuel Coal Company owned/leased by E.R. Peoples. This is the whole map so you can see how much it has grown since Jack McQuade got it started. The old mine is noted but is very faint while the current mine is darker.

1932 West Coast Fuel Full Map K42-F

Enough of the background history. Let us get down to the pilings. This next map is a portion of the one above that zeroes in on the area of the pilings.

1932 West Coast Fuel Coal Mine – Close up of river crossings with notes.

I have added red notes pointing out the main things of interest on this 90 year old map. They are the entrance of the mine, the slag pile, the main railroad trestle and our pilings area. That pilings area contains the old Hoist and our pilings that supported the bridge that supported the hoist mechanicals. Odd configuration where they had the hoist pulling from across a river. They needed that extra leverage to get those heavy coal cars out of a mine.

I have one more map that I think gives a great overview of the area. This was produced for King County to document all the Coal mines in the county. It is dated 1945 and I have included Cedar Mountain mines, New Black Diamond (Indian) mine, the Jones Slope and the Red Devil/Fire King Coal Mine to the west. That Cavanaugh owned mine is now under what is Fairwood and Woodside housing developments.

1945 Coal Mines of King County – Cedar Mtn Area

If you look closely each mine has a number in a circle. Example: Our target mine at Cedar Mountain (then called Consolidated Coal Co.) has #34. Here is the legend from this 1945 map for your reference.

The New Black Diamond (Indian) Mine is noted up in the hill where the actual mines are by #35. However, many think of this mine as the Processing Complex that was down on the Highway next to the Railroad. This is where Lakeside Industries is trying to build an Asphalt Plant. It was also known as the King County Road Maintenance Shops and later Sunset Materials.

In the lower right corner is the number 5 in a square. That denotes the old number/name of the now Hwy 169 / Renton – Maple Valley Hwy.

Are you ready? I can hear you saying…… Show us the photos!

I am going to start with some photos of the hoist. This was the first thing I found in my Cedar Mountain search. These early photos are from August 6, 2020. It is very brushy and the blackberries had taken over.

My first view of the Cedar Mtn Coal Mine Hoist – Aug. 2020
Closer look at the moss and brier covered Hoist in 2020

That same day I took this photo of the river looking across at the slag pile. The hoist is behind me. Those piling, if they were exposed, you would see them in the lower right corner of the photo.

Aug.2020 photo across river looking at the big coal slag pile.

On a return trip I got some better photos of the slag pile across the river from the old coal mine there.

And another shot of the hoist with less brush around it. This was in January 2021. Winter is a great time to hunt for things with the leaves gone.

Cedar Mtn Hoist all mossy but so big she is still there.

Next looking across the river where you can see some boards that used to be a bulkhead on the mine side of the river. Brett took this photo in 2015 too. My other searcher friend, Anthony, told me he waded across the river one year and saw this bulkhead remains as well.

Brett H photo of pilings at Cedar Mtn in river April 2015

I think this next photo I took in 2020 is the same place. Over the past couple of years a small island has formed between the hoist area and the mine side. These boards could be there but are obscured by the vegetation or the new divided river has washed them away. Be a good trip to see if this winter I can see them or this coming summer ford the river.

August 2020 photo – Is this where the bulkhead boards are?

Let us finish up with the belle of the coal mine ball – the pilings just under the water in September 2022.

I think I could see three of them but one was closer to the bank and easier to tell what it was. The still photos below just don’t do them justice. However, one can barely make out what they are with some imagination.

Is it a rock or a piling? Can you see the hole in the middle?
Here is another piling that seems just like another rock to the amateur eye.

But a video came through and this is the proof that they still exist after all these decades.

There we are, another Cedar Mountain article documenting the history of this forgotten place. If you look close you can glimpse her hard working past.

If you want to read more about my search for Cedar Mountain and other Lost Coal Mines here is a link to my directory of articles. Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a road, a mine, a town or a railroad can disappear into the fog of time.


  1. I’ve also found several narrow gauge spikes at the site plus an old spittoon. I’m sure a metal detector would reveal even more treasures on BOTH sides of the river!

  2. That is cool finding those things.

    However, I have been contacted by the King County Archeologist about the Belmondo Reach Park and a hole dug that they call a looting pit.

    She asked that we not dig in the site due to its historical significance.

    I too was guilty when Dow and I unearthed the Scale house foundations by the parking lot. She sent me the actual law around this on county property.

    This might not sit well with us seekers of history but it is the law.

    On a light note she was very grateful for all the history and information that we have documented of the area. Seems it is a forgotten area and what I posted on all of our finds was helpful in her research.

    So.. observe, document but leave the artifacts in the ground. Anyone interested more on this send me a private email or text.

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