Salt Chuck Mine
“Joker” or Salt Chuck Mine, Prince of Wales Island (2013) – Hunters Si Goodro and Walter Thomas stumbled upon the valuable metals of gold, silver, copper, and palladium near Kasaan Bay in 1905 or 1906. At first, the hunters called their mine the Joker, but eventually, it became known as the Goodro Mine. The mine changed hands multiple times over the years, opening and closing with each major event of the early to mid-twentieth century—the fall of metal prices in 1926, the Great Depression in the early 1930s, and WWII in 1941.
For years, the abandoned Salt Chuck Mine sat alone at the head of the Kasaan Bay with its dock and buildings decaying. The Tongass National Forest rain beat down upon the ruins with visitors hiking the trail through the marshy woods to find it. Old railroad tracks and mining cars rusted in place on the forest floor; the sight of them cluing visitors that they were close to the smelting facility.
Where seventy men once worked, we stood to marvel at the past. The mine site changed in our day. Old buildings were torn down and hauled off, leaving only a few remnants and the splintered dock as a reminder of what used to be.
Now, for the rest of the story.
We hiked to Salt Chuck Mine every year from 1999 through 2016. A visit to this historical site meant packing a lunch, snacks, and water and trekking more than a mile through the damp woods. I watched for bear while Elgin ensured we stayed on the correct route. Rain dripped onto our heads as the muck below our feet attempted to keep our boots stuck in the mud in some places. We climbed over multiple fallen trees slippery with wet moss.
The smelter site appeared at the forest’s edge. Our two dogs explored freely as Elgin and I examined the deteriorating dock, explored the corroding machinery, and sat to admire the stunning Kasaan Bay. Rain or shine, it didn’t matter—it was a magnificent view.
In 1999, Paul and Kim Kain guided us a half mile into the forest to see a deep hole spanning 75 yards—the mine. We walked through a long tunnel with a sudden drop-off and stood to marvel at the open pit. Then, we continued hiking through the woods to the collapsing smelter structures.
Today, the Forest Service has a decent road to the area. The gate is closed, but you can park nearby and walk the four-tenths of a mile down the steep hill. It is a far easier hike than heading out through the woods, even with the climb back up to the parking area.
For more images, check out Salt Chuck Mine on Google.