Darrington District to Clean Up Monte Cristo
At Barlow Pass, on the Mountain Loop Highway, a closed road trails
southward along the South Fork Sauk River through one of Washington's most historic backcountry areas. The road is closed to motorized vehicles, but hikers still walk it regularly to access Gothic Basin and the Poodle Dog Pass and Glacier Basin Trails. Set among high peaks, the Monte Cristo townsite was an active mine site from 1889 to around 1920. All told, around 280,000 tons of ore containing gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc was taken out of the hills in this area.
All that mining activity created quite a mess. On the hillsides above Glacier Creek, tailings lie under roughly four to six inches of soil. Studies of a small stream that drains a dumpsite above Glacier Creek indicate greater-than-expected conductivity which may be due to minerals leaching from tailings. In the long run, specialists on the Forest are concerned that continuing heavy weather in the Cascades may leach out more of the toxics buried below the surface. In any case, it's important to restore what we can, both for the benefit of the public and the wildlife that call this area home.
The Darrington Ranger District is in the beginning steps of planning for cleanup of the Monte Cristo site. They've scheduled a public meeting for Monday, September 28 at 7:00 in Darrington. The District will take input on alternatives for cleanup. However this process is conducted, there will be changes to the Monte Cristo site, including the potential for a new road to bring in cleanup equipment.
It's important for hikers to have input on this process as it unfolds, since some of our favorite trails could be impacted by roadbuilding or other associated activities. I'll be there, and I hope you will be, as well. If you have any questions about the meeting, please don't hesitate to contact me at 206.625.1367 or via email at email@example.com.