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Not far from Eugene, high in the rugged, remote mountains in the southernmost reaches of Oregon’s Lane County, take a hike through history. The Bohemia Mining District east of Cottage Grove reveals buildings, equipment, and the hopes and dreams of men 120 years ago. A time when gold mining in Oregon could make a man rich, and the treasure was there for the taking.
A Brief History of Musick Mine
Musick Mine, named for James A. Musick, was one of the largest and most profitable gold mines from 1890 to 1910. It was also the site of Bohemia City. By 1903, they had electricity carried by lines to the “Warehouse” at Lund Park. Besides the post office and electrity, Bohemia City also boasted saloons, a sawmill, a county clerk, blacksmith, boardinghouse, and residences.
Musick Mine is located on Bohemia Mountain, near the saddle between Bohemia Mountain and Fairview Peak. Other mines dot the region, and roads crisscross both mountains in a maze of 100-year-old mining activity. Today, most of the mines are long closed and blasted shut. A few, though, are still active claims, so if you go to explore, be sure to look for the No Trespassing signs. Now considered a ghost town, Bohemia City is a shadow of its former glory. Musick Mine is open to the public for hiking and exploring, thanks to the Bohemia Mining Association that maintains the property as much as they’re allowed.
Hiking in to Musick Mine
Here’s the thing about Musick Mine…the road goes all the way into the heart of the mining property, right up to the post office and even beyond. BUT, you have to have a 4-wheel-drive with high clearance. We have a minivan. A minivan. We hiked.
Since we were staying at the nearby Musick Guard Station, we drove up the spur road near the cabin until the road got too rough for our van. We found a wide spot in the road and parked. Of our 6 kids, ages 0 – 13 years, four could hike pretty well, the fifth hikes but doesn’t have much endurance, and the sixth wasn’t yet walking. We used a Deuter Kid Comfort II frame pack for our 5-year-old, and I wore our baby in a standard Tula carrier. The road into Musick is pretty good, but it was built from fist-sized rocks. Any dirt or sand between the rocks has long since eroded away, and the rocks form a very uneven surface and tend to roll underfoot. This was easily walkable for the adults and older kids, but our younger kids needed some assistance and we held hands just to keep them from tripping every third step.
The Post Office
From our wide spot, where we left the van, to the mine was only about 1/3 mile. The mine welcomed us with a view of the post office as we came around a bend in the road. The post office was built in the 1890s and has been somewhat maintained by the Bohemia Mining District Association members. They’re allowed to keep it standing, provided they do no major improvements to the building. The post office is the last major building left standing at Bohemia City.
Landscape at Musick Mine
The terrain around Musick Mine is often steep and treacherous, and decades of mining have left enormous piles of mine tailings, or leftover material dug out of the mountain. Sprinkled about the tailings piles are remnants of equipment and former buildings. A water pump tower is still standing at the edge of the tailings. We poked around carefully and let the kids explore a bit. For the most part, it’s pretty safe for kids. We didn’t see any sharp edges or anything inherently dangerous. There were a couple of bloodied knees from falling on all the loose gravel, but everyone was having too much fun to complain.
Musick Mine Lower Entrance
If you could stand on these tracks, and then turn around, you’d see the lower entrance to Musick Mine. It’s blasted closed, and full of debris, but the air near the entrance is noticeably colder (especially on a hot August day). I can so easily imagine this being a beehive of activity 120 years ago, with men working, metal clanging, the ore carts rumbling, and the occasional blast shaking the mountain.
Hike to Upper Entrance
From the road as we hiked in to Bohemia City and Musick Mine, we saw a tailings pile higher up on the side of Bohemia Mountain. What was that? Is there another entrance?? Can we get there?
Behind the entrance above, there was a very rough, very steep road. We had plenty of time, and we wanted to see as many mines as possible in our three days, so up we went.
It’s a pretty short climb, and the road goes all the way up to the tailings pile, but it’s VERY rough to walk. Our kids were tripping constantly, and I turned my ankle despite having hiking shoes. Some vehicles might make it up there, we did see some tire tracks (though they could have come from above, off the Bohemia Saddle…there are roads everywhere). It’s also quite steep, but we were soon rewarded by arriving at the edge of the tailings pile. And then…I heard my 8-year-old screaming “It’s here! It’s here! There’s another entrance!!!”
Hiking around in the brush near Musick Mine yields a few more discoveries.
How to Get to Musick Mine
There are a couple of routes to get to Bohemia Mountain. This is the one is recommended by the Forest Service:
Where to Stay
Bohemia Mountain is easily done as a day trip from Eugene or Springfield, but if you’d like to stay on the mountain and really explore, there are a few choices for accommodations.
The Musick Guard Station was our choice. It’s a historic, 1934 fire guard station location very near to Musick Mine. It’s rentable through the Forest Service via Recreation.gov. If you’d like to rent this, book it early, like February or March, as bookings fill up fast.
If camping sounds like fun, there are several campgrounds along Brice Creek Road. We stayed at Lund Park, which is not able to be reserved, but mid-week we were almost the only ones in the campground. Hobo Camp is also nearby, which has amazing swimming holes.
You can pitch a tent at Bohemia Saddle, but there are no amenities here, neither bathrooms nor picnic tables. Everything is pack-in, pack-out. Several homemade fire rings are scattered about, and areas cleared for tents.
What else to do nearby
Besides Musick Mine, there are mines dotted all over the mountain. We also found Vesuvius Mine, which is worth the short trip to see.
The Bohemia Mountain Trail is well-known for being a beautiful hike that rewards you with incredible views, and on clear days they say you can see Mt Shasta in California and Mt Hood in northern Oregon. We didn’t hike it on this trip, but we’d love to return just to do this hike.
Fairview Peak, which shares the saddle with Bohemia Mountain, has a lookout on top that is still manned during fire season. The gate is probably closed, but you’re allowed to hike up to the peak and see the lookout. The lookout used to be rentable during the off-season, but due to structural issues it’s no longer available and they don’t know when, or if, it will be rentable again.
And tons of hiking. With roads crisscrossing all over the region, pick one and hike! There are also established trails near Brice Creek, many leading to waterfalls like Trestle Creek Falls.
I highly recommend stopping at the Bohemia Gold Mining Museum in Cottage Grove. It has limited hours, but if you can swing a visit, DO! The entrance fee is a donation, and it’s staffed with experts who’ve spent their lives tromping around on Bohemia Mountain. They have a collection of mining artifacts that are fascinating and help you envision how the mines were run and what life was like on Bohemia Mountain. Their history of gold mining in Oregon is unsurpassed, and I recommend at least an hour to look through the museum and browse the small gift shop.
One Last Laugh
My kids are insisting I include this story. It was NOT funny at the time, but now we have a pretty good laugh, remembering our panic.
We were nearly done exploring Musick Mine, and I was taking some last photos before we started the hike back to our van, when I heard the unmistakable sound of a car alarm.
Two things dawned on me simultaneously: we’d been up here for two days and hadn’t seen a single car or person, so it had to be our van’s alarm. And we were 1/3 of a mile away.
Panic hit us, and we gathered up the kids and started off as fast as we could go. The alarm stopped after about 30 seconds, but we knew that whoever had set off the alarm would have at least 10 minutes to themselves before we could get there.
Hiking fast and practically dragging the younger kids, we finally arrived at our van. And…
Nothing. It was fine. Phew!
Later, we arrived back at the Musick Guard Station where we were staying, and found that a forest ranger had been there to hang a fire ban notice. We realized it was probably his car alarm, not ours. But for 10 minutes, we imagined the worst and our adrenaline raced in a futile attempt to save our van.
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