Written by Chris Brawn (email)
posted under 'glossary and terms', 'prospecting history'
Not too long ago, I was working in our Goldbar store, when an older gentleman sallied in through the door to take a gander at some of our new sluices. As he poked and prodded the new gear, I took the chance to strike up a conversation. A note to all you younger prospectors: take every opportunity you can to listen to older prospectors. While they might bend the truth a bit (what prospector doesn’t), they are often full of prospecting experience and often willing to share it with a with up and comers. This old timer was no exception.
About halfway through our conversation, he pulled out a leather poke containing some of the gold that he had found over the years. Boy was it purdy. When I asked where he had found it, to my surprise, he responded by saying, “I found that gold in a sleeper creek”. I had only heard that term one other time, way back in my youth while spending time in the Liberty, Washington area by a helluva gold prospector by the name of Ralph Fackler.
Ralph and his wife Hinretta, ran the Lauderdale Gas station from 1968 to 1971 and working the Blackjack claim. I spent a lot of time with Ralph and really enjoyed listening to his stories and paid close attention to pretty much everything that came from his lips. Ralph talked a lot about sleeper creeks in the Liberty area, attributing much of his prospecting success to these areas. It’s odd that the term isn’t as prevalent in the gold prospecting lexicon. Heck, try a search for sleeper creek on Google, you aren’t going to find anything.
Ralph explained the idea of a sleeper creek as being a creek that the old miners would prospect out and find really good gold on, but due typically to the lack of easy water access or depth, was not economically feasible to mine commercially. Bringing in water ineffiecient mining techniques of the day would not make it quite worth their while. As there was always better diggin’s down the creek, these great spots were abandoned in hopes of finding another site that had easier commercial production values. Being smart gold prospectors, they would squirrel away the location thinking the unproduced area was like having money in the bank, but many never returned.
That’s why I always get excited about the Liberty area. There are a lot of sleeper creeks are still out there and when found look a lot like ‘virgin ground’. With the equipment we have available to us today, it makes turning these once infeasible areas very productive. Keep an eye out for sleeper creeks.
A little more information
While trying to find a picture to share with you of Ralph Fackler, I stumbled across a great historical view of the Swauk River Basin mining disctrict definitely worth a read. It’s available as a PDF download, from http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wakcgs/SwaukBasinHistory.pdf.