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Mining in Warren, Idaho and the Salmon River

Pierce, a city in Idaho where gold was first discovered in the 1860s led the miners to be more ambitious and search in nearby areas for more promising fortunes. The miners spread out and when they approached Florence, they were restricted from entering by the Nez Perce Indians, who were trying to limit the number of miners into the area. However, the Nez Perce Indians couldn’t go up against 23 determined men who eventually discovered gold in the Florence Basin in August of 1861. The coming winter saw more than 3000 prospectors flooding the area.

Pierce and Florence weren’t the end of the flourishing mining towns in Idaho. The summer of 1862 was meant to be a new beginning for 18 men who set out to search for more gold. They were searching for gold across the Salmon River and due east across the Salmon River Mountains. Among the prospectors, a man named James Warren struck gold in what it would be called Warren’s mining district later on. Legend has it that Warren was a keen marksmanship and in one of the mornings after breakfast, he shot some fires at the roots of a fallen tree. Warren walked over to the place to see the after effects of his shots and one of his shots hit a gravel bank near the tree. He then looked up at the bank and knew that he hit the bull’s eye.

The Growth of Warren

Regardless of the legend, the gold was discovered in the Salmon River Mountains of North-Central Idaho. Later, the area came to be known as Warren’s mining district in July 22, 1862. The news of the discovery spread when the mining laws of the district were published in Walla Walla, Washington, 16th August, 1862. In less than a month, more than 100 people were seeking fortunes in the area. After the gold discovery, it was approximated that Warren was home to about 5000 people, most of them living in the vicinity of the district.

By the beginning of 1865, Warren was a well-established mining town. When the gold was first discovered, it was reported that the gold was heavy, superior in quality to the gold in Florence and the valley could support approximately a population of 20000. Mining was a difficult task to do in Warren, since it was at a higher altitude than Florence. However, that didn’t stop miners from pursuing their ambition. By summer 1864, Warren mining district saw several stores and saloons built on its land and this is when a proper mining town arose.

Also Read: Gold in Wallace & the Silver Valley

Gold Panning in Idaho

Boom & Bust in Just a Few Short Years

However, the gold rush ended by 1875 and by then Warren was home to many Chinese people who bought up the placer claims. By 1879, there were about 800 Chinese and 200 whites engaged in mining activities (especially quartz mining). Warren didn’t experience a lot of racial violence, however, in the late 1890s, racial violence increased due to the Chinese Exclusion Act and other laws. By the turn of the century, Warren was home to only a handful of Chinese people.

Mining declined afterwards and so the population declined. The warren district produced about $17,000,000 worth in precious metals, most of that being gold. Most of these productions were before 1870.

Warren district saw a difficult time in the first 3 decades of the 20th century due to fewer mining activities. However, there was a breakthrough in 1931 when a company called Idaho Gold Dredging revived the mining activities. Production of gold escalated quickly and within a decade, approximately $4 million in gold was recovered (most of them from bucket line dredging). However, this boom was short-lived due to World War II and Warren became what it is today, a tiny community in this remote region of Idaho.

From 1862 till 1942, Warren mining district produced about $15 million in placer gold. Today, the population is hardly 12-16 people. Fortunately, Warren district did not face any environmental disaster and to this day there are still some mining activities for gold and other precious metals. There is a decent amount of tourism in the area during the summer months, mostly visitors in the McCall area. Warren is also a popular area for snowmobilers to visit during the winter when the town is snowed in.

Next: The 5 Best States to Find Gold

And: The Placers & Hard Rock Gold in Sumpter, Oregon


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