The Issaquah History Museums, one of the historical organizations that had received recognition earlier this year at the 2018 AKCHO Awards Program for its mining history hikes, hosted the June AKCHO membership meeting at its restored Issaquah Depot facility.
Doug Bristol, a docent at the IHM since 2012, regaled nearly 20 AKCHO members with stories from Issaquah’s mining history before leading the group on a short tour to the entrance of a Squak Mountain mine.
Bristol noted that the “Issaquah Alps” range is 50 million years old – older than the Cascade Mountains by several million years. This cluster of foothills (comprised of Cougar Mountain, Squak Mountain, Tiger Mountain, Taylor Mountain, Rattlesnake Ridge and Rattlesnake Mountain) is one of only two east-west trending mountain ranges on the West Coast – the other is the Siskiyous.
By 1862, settlers were aware that coal was plentiful in the local foothills, but it wasn’t until the railroad arrived in 1888 that it became financially feasible to convey the coal to Seattle. Over the next several years, Issaquah went from boom to bust and back to boom again. Mining ceased after World War II, but the opening of the Lacey V. Murrow floating bridge across Lake Washington in 1940 helped turned Issaquah into a bedroom community to Seattle.
As the town grew, it was built over mines that had been dug tens of hundreds of feet below the surface. Bristol said that because the mines were built with rot- and insect-resistant cedar beams, the mines have held up well for a century or more, but the recent appearance of a few sinkholes around town suggests that even cedar has its limits.
As AKCHO members headed out into the cool but sunny June morning to thread their way through the streets of downtown Issaquah and past the salmon fishery on their short hike to the mine entrance, Bristol paused periodically to point out areas such as the library parking garage which had to engage in special mitigation in order to avoid slumping caused by the mines deep below.
This is just one of several popular hikes offered by the Issaquah History Museums throughout the year. For more information on the hikes, visit www.issaquahhistory.org.