Park City Drain Tunnels
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This page was last updated on March 22, 2014.
(This is a work in progress; research continues.)
All of the Park City mines gained reputations early in the district's history for being "wet," meaning that water soon filled the mines as soon as they reached any real depth of 100 to 200 feet. Pumping soon became a big part of the expense of operating a Park City mine, and it was the Ontario that opened one of the first drain tunnels, which were opened at depths below the working levels, and drained to open ground at lower elevations. That first Ontario drain tunnel was opened in 1881. A second much longer drain tunnel was opened in 1888, which formed the basis for a major expansion in 1923 that changed where ore was loaded into rail cars. Other big drain tunnels were the Alliance tunnel, the Daly-Judge (Anchor) tunnel, the Snake Creek tunnel, and the Spiro tunnel. The water draining from these tunnels was being sold to Park City as municipal water, or to irrigation companies, and each was later involved in lengthy legal battles to determine who actually owned the flow. Other water users in the region, who depended on free-flowing wells and springs, and other water sources such as creeks, soon found (and documented) that the flow of their sources was decreased when these drain tunnels were opened. These legal battles became just part of the much larger story of water rights in the western United States.
(Other major drainage tunnels in Utah included the Mascotte (30,000 feet) and Butterfield (8,700 feet) tunnels at Bingham, and the Honerine tunnel (13,000 feet) between Tooele and Stockton.)
Ontario Drain Tunnel
A description of the need for the earlier drain tunnel at the 600-foot level, and the later drain tunnel at the 1,500-foot level comes from USGS Professional Paper 77, Geology And Ore Deposits Of The Park City District, Utah, 1912, page 25:
One of the earliest mines in the pioneering 1870-1880 decade were the No. 1 and No.2 shafts of the Ontario in Ontario Canyon. "The struggles in those early days against water seem almost incredible, as on the levels which were then so wet one finds now only dust. In 1881 they led the Ontario, which was then using 127 tons of coal for developing power for pumping, to run a long drain tunnel on the 600-foot level. This tunnel was driven from the Ontario mill 6,357 feet to the No. 3 shaft and 500 feet beyond this point, thence 2,700 feet west to the Daly line. It now extends through Daly ground to the Daly West shaft. This tunnel effectually drained the adjoining ground to the depth of 600 feet.
"The enormous flow which continued to be encountered at greater depths is indicated by the installation at the No. 3 works of a powerful Cornish pump, the largest in use at that time in the West. The flywheel was 30 feet in diameter and weighed 70 tons. The pumps were 20 inches in diameter, had a 10-foot stroke, and were capable of throwing 320 gallons of water at each stroke. The pump rod, of Oregon pine, was 1,060 feet long and 16 inches square, and its several sections were united by iron strapping plates 1 by 10 and 1 by 12 inches 30 feet long. The pump lifted 2,560 gallons a minute, 153,600 gallons an hour, or 3,686,400 gallons a day from the 1,000-foot level to the drain tunnel on the 600-foot level.
"But development progressed to depths below the reach of this powerful machine, and late in the summer of 1888, the construction of a great tunnel which would drain the mine to a depth of 1,500 feet at the No.3 shaft was undertaken. An outlet sufficiently low to drain this level was located on the eastern slope of the range about 3 miles east from the mine. The dimensions of the tunnel are, height 9 feet, width at top 4 feet, and at bottom 5 feet. The water ditch is 21 inches deep and has a capacity of 13,000 gallons per minute; its grade is one-half inch to a rod. The tunnel was timbered with 10 by 10's, a heavy plank flooring was laid over the ditch and on this a track of 18-pound rails.
"The tunnel is 15,490 feet in length and absolutely straight, so that a person standing at the face is able to see daylight at the mouth nearly 3 miles distant. Connection between the part driven from the mouth and that driven from the No. 2 shaft was effected Sunday night October 7, 1894. The total cost of the tunnel was about $400,000."
After spending over $500,000 to equip its mine with an "immense" Cornish pump to drain its mine, the Ontario company decided in 1881 that a drain tunnel would be a less expensive solution, and completed a drain tunnel at its 600-foot level that drained into the creek that passes through Park City. "As the workings went deeper, the water again became unmanageable by pumping, and a second tunnel more than three miles in length was driven in 1888 from the 1,500 level emptying into a canyon tributary to the Provo River a few miles above Heber. The flow of water from the mine is 6,000 gallons per minute and it furnishes power sufficient for all the lighting and motor requirements of the plant, and a margin used beside for lighting Park City." The ores from the Ontario were first processed at the Marsac mill, built in 1874 and leased by the Ontario for the purpose. The Marsac was used until 1886 when the Ontario built its own 40-stamp mill near the mouth of its first tunnel. On May 1, 1901, the Ontario stopped processing its ore and began shipping all ore, unprocessed directly to the smelters. The Ontario and Daly properties were controlled by the same parties, and were being operated in conjunction. The drain tunnel had been extended entirely through both properties an extreme distance of 15,494 feet. (Salt Lake Herald, December 29, 1901)
"In 1888 lode mining was given new life by the owners of the Ontario mine when they began its 3-mile drain tunnel, in order to reduce considerably the expense of mining. This example was followed by the owners of the Anchor and Alliance mines, who also began work on long drain tunnels. Lode mining was further aided by the passage of the new law by Congress on July 14 providing for the purchase of 4,500,000 ounces of silver a month, which resulted in a great improvement of the silver market. The influence of this law brought about an increased tonnage in Utah mines and a general tone of prosperity throughout the mining camp." (USGS Professional Paper 77, Geology And Ore Deposits Of The Park City District, Utah, 1912, page 21)
"The mine workings lie in two great parallel northeast-southwest belts and are entered through both deep shafts and long tunnels." "The northern belt, embracing the Woodside, Mayflower, Silver King, and Kearns-Keith properties (Kearns-Keith and Silver King were combined in 1907 as the Silver King Coalition), is entered by shafts and by two long tunnels-the Hanauer and Alliance; the southern belt, including the Ontario, Daly, Daly West, Daly-Judge, and Little Bell properties (all were combined in 1925 as the Park Utah Consolidated), is entered by shafts and three long tunnels-the Ontario drain tunnel, the main Ontario-Daly, Daly West work tunnel, and the Daly-Judge drain tunnel. The adjoining mines are connected so that it is possible to pass continuously underground from one end to the other of each belt, the distance in the southern belt being over 5 miles. (USGS Professional Paper 77, Geology And Ore Deposits Of The Park City District, Utah, 1912, page 23)
"The Daly is equipped with splendid hoisting works, the lower grade ores from the mine being worked at the Marsac mill. The Daly is worked so to speak in connection with the Ontario and the workings of the two properties connecting one with the other would aggregate all of 100 miles, the deepest shafts of the Daly being drained by the Ontario three-mile drain tunnel." (Salt Lake Mining Review, December 30, 1900)
The Daly-West mine shipped its ore by way of an underground tunnel that connected at the 1400-foot level with the Ontario tunnel, loading into cars of the Union Pacific. (Salt Lake Herald, December 29, 1901)
During the early years of the 1920s, UP and Rio Grande were in the midst of a heated competition for rail traffic in Utah. In a purely competitive move to steal traffic away from D&RGW's Park City Branch, UP worked with Ontario Mining Company to close its original surface works above Park City, expand its drainage tunnel, and allow UP to serve the new opening as a shipment point for the Ontario's ores. UP christened the new opening and new station Keetley.
The station at Keetley was named for John (Jack) Keetley, Superintendent at the Silver King Mine from 1902 until his death in 1912. He was a well known and popular person in Park City history, and in Utah's mining community. Besides being one of Utah's best known mining men, Keetley's claim to fame was that he was one of very few people who was a rider for the Pony Express throughout its entire 19-month period of operations. Keetley was born in England in 1841 and after the Pony Express was disbanded in 1861, Keetley moved to Salt Lake City and became active in mining, working his way up the career ladder over the next 40 years to become Superintendent of the Silver King, which was right behind the Ontario in overall wealth produced for any mine in Utah.
To serve this new ore loading point at Keetley, in 1923 Union Pacific constructed the Ontario Branch, which left the Park City Branch about four miles east of Park City, at a point that the railroad chose to name Keetley Junction. The station at the Ontario drainage tunnel at Keetley soon became the major traffic point on UP's Park City Branch.
In 1925 when several mining companies (including the Ontario company) merged to form the Park-Utah Consolidated Mining Company, the company was shipping about 200 tons per day.
"All ore from the Ontario is sent directly to the smelter, and is no longer sent to the mill, which had been closed "for several years." "All ore is now brought through the old drain tunnel which taps shaft No. 3 at a depth of 600 feet and delivered directly to the cars on the spur of the Union Pacific." The No. 3 shaft had attained a depth of 1,700 feet, and at that level "the ore bodies are still magnificent." At the Daly mine, which had been inactive for the previous year, development work was proceeding to connect with the Ontario drain tunnel at the Daly's 1,700-foot level. (Deseret News, December 21, 1901)
The Daly-West mine was connected to the Ontario drain tunnel in 1907. (Deseret News, December 19, 1908, "last summer")
"The work tunnel from the Daly-West, Daly, and Ontario mines, by which ore is trammed on horse trains to the loading station at Park City, is about 2-1/2 miles long. It embraces parts of the mine workings in these properties, which have been reopened, and substantially timbered and tracked for this heavy tramming. For a mile at the outer end the 600-foot level drain tunnel of the Ontario Co. is utilized. For the privilege of shipping through this and the Daly property, the Daly West Mining Co. pays the Ontario Co. a royalty of 10 cents a ton." (USGS Professional Paper 77, Geology And Ore Deposits Of The Park City District, Utah, 1912, page 24)
For 1909, production from the Daly-West mine was 12,019 dry tons of crude ore, and 9,111 dry tons of concentrate. (Salt Lake Mining Review, March 30, 1910)
Anchor (Daly-Judge) Tunnel
Of the three mines opened by John J. Daly, the Daly mine, the Daly-West mine, and the Daly-Judge mine (formerly the Anchor mine), the Daly-Judge became known as a very wet mine. (John J. Daly was a close friend, but no relation to Marcus Daly, of Anaconda and Butte, Montana fame.)
A drain tunnel was started in August 1887 and was driven from a point in Empire Gulch, opposite the mouth of Walker & Webster Gulch, southwesterly toward the Anchor shaft. The Anchor tunnel had a total length is 6,600 feet and its sectional dimensions are 7-foot post, 5-foot sill, and 4-foot cap; its grade was three-fourths of an inch to a rod, and the water flume was 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep. It was completed at an estimated cost total of $200,000. This tunnel struck the Anchor shaft at the 1,200-foot level and sufficed to drain the property. The Judge (later Daly-Judge) mill was built at the outlet of the Anchor tunnel. (USGS Professional Paper 77, Geology And Ore Deposits Of The Park City District, Utah, 1912, page 25)
The Alliance drainage tunnel (of the Silver King company) was started in June 1889, where Walker & Webster Gulch met Empire Canyon, in the same vicinity as the outlet of the Anchor (Daly-Judge) tunnels. The Alliance drainage tunnel was completed on August 17, 1890, for a distance of 4,590 feet to a point under the Kearns-Keith property. Its inside timber measurements were 7-foot post, 4-foot cap, and 4-foot sill. In 1912, its length was considerably over a mile; and in addition to efficiently draining the ground opened by the several mines consolidated in the Kearns-Keith property (later the Silver King Coalition) and affording a deep work and exploration tunnel for future needs, it supplied water for domestic use in Park City and for use in the mill of the Silver King plant. (USGS Professional Paper 77, Geology And Ore Deposits Of The Park City District, Utah, 1912, page 26)
Snake Creek Tunnel
In March 1910 work was begun on what was called the Snake Creek Tunnel, a 14,000 feet-long tunnel that would drain some of the Park City mines, with specific mention of the Daly-Judge mine. The name came from the tunnel's final destination at the head of Snake Creek on the southeast slope Bald Mountain above Midway in Heber Valley. Completed in 1916, the flow from the tunnel was an amazing 8,600 gallons per minute. (Salt Lake Mining Review, August 15, 1910)
"Early in the year  directors of the company [Daly-Judge] decided to take over the Snake Creek property upon which a drainage tunnel 14,500 feet in length had just been finished to the line of the Judge ground. This great bore was designed for the drainage of the latter and was run under the supervision of George W. Lambourne, general manager for the Judge company. The tunnel will be connected with the workings of the company and will drain them to a depth of 3,000 feet. It has already enabled the company to work the lower levels profitably and makes it possible to mine at great depth in the southwesterly portion of the district. The tunnel is eight and one half feet in width, six and one half feet in height above the rails and has a water channel three and one half by four feet. It has a fall of three inches to 100 feet and the water flow at the time it reached Judge ground was 8,626 gallons a minute." (Salt Lake Mining Review, January 15, 1917)
According to a three page article, with photos, the Snake Creek tunnel project was a joint effort of the Jesse Knight interests, and the owners of the Daly-Judge Mining Company, through a joint company called Snake Creek Mining & Tunnel Company. George Lambourne was general manager. The tunnel itself was concrete lined, and was egg-shaped, with the narrow point down. It was double tracked, nine and one half feet wide, seven feet above rail level, with a water channel below rail level, four feet by four-foot two-inches. (Engineering Record, May 25, 1912, Volume 65, Number 21, page 564)
By 1920, the Judge Mining & Smelting company was the sole owner of the Snake Creek tunnel. There was at the time a suit between the mining company and Midway Irrigation Co., over ownership and control of the flow exiting the tunnel, to be heard in December 1920 in federal district court for Utah. (Mining & Scientific Press, October 30, 1920, Volume 121, page 614)
The Snake Creek suit was to be heard by the U. S. Supreme Court due to its precedence concerning ownership of water issuing from mining drain tunnels. (Engineering and Mining Journal, May 14, 1921, Volume 111, Number 20, page 835)
Silver King Consolidated Mining Company was developed by Solon Spiro and Samuel Newhouse, after they bought the old Bogan mine. In spring 1916, the mine owners "launched construction of an ambitious tunnel designed to drain the major portion of the company's property and, it was hoped, provide access to new ore bodies." "Spiro's drain tunnel was a disappointment. By January 1922 it had reached a depth of more than 15,000 feet without passing through substantial ore deposits. It did drain the company's largely undeveloped properties, but it also drained the pockets of Spiro and the company's shareholders." (From The Ground Up, Park City, pages 329-332)
December 31, 1894
Solon Spiro was named as assistant secretary of the newly organized Bogan Silver MIning Company. He was referred to as "the efficient and capable manager of the M. S. Ascheim Mercantile company of Park City". (park Record, January 5, 1895, "last Monday")
Solon Spiro purchased control of the Bogan group of mining claims, adding to his control of the Lucky Bill and Little Bell groups of claims. (Park Record, March 9, 1901; March 23, 1901)
December 15, 1902
Silver King Consolidated Mining Company was organized to purchase the Bogan, Lucky Bill and Little Bell claims, along with the Electric Light claim. At the time, only the Bogan mine had sunk a shaft, to a depth of 600 feet. Comprising 58 acres in Woodside Canyon. (Salt Lake Mining Review, December 15, 1902; December 30, 1902)
October 30, 1905
Silver King Consolidated was moving its winter supplies from Park City into their mine in Woodside Gulch. One was by way of the Silver King Coalition's tunnels, and the other was by way of the old Crescent tram, which although was winding and crooked, was an easy grade for the wagons and teams. (Salt Lake Mining Review, October 30, 1905)
October 30, 1916
Silver King Consolidated Mining Company completed their aerial tramway between the mine and their mill, as distance of 10,200 feet, 52 buckets, five cubic feet each, traveling at 400 feet per minute. the new aerial tramway will save about 57 percent of transportation costs. The new Spiro tunnel had progressed about 700 feet, with progress being about 8 feet per day. Total planned length is 14,000 feet. (Salt Lake Mining Review, October 30, 1916)
The mill of the Silver King Consolidated went into operation. The mill was connected to the mine by an aerial tram. The Spiro tunnel was making progress. (Goodwin's Weekly, July 14, 1917)
January 31, 1918
Silver King Consolidated Mining Company took over the California-Comstock group of claims. (Salt Lake Mining Review, January 30, 1918)
November 30, 1918
The Spiro tunnel had reached a distance of 8,700 feet. (Salt Lake Mining Review, November 30, 1918, "Dips, Spurs, and Angles")
July 30, 1920
The Spiro tunnel had reached "better than 13,000 feet". (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1920, "Around The State")
July 30, 1921
The Spiro tunnel had reached 14,400 feet. (Salt Lake Mining Review, July 30, 1921, "Around The State")
November 15, 1922
The first objective of the Spiro tunnel of a length of 15,000 feet had been attained. Numerous additional shafts and drifts in other directions were being driven to access known ore reserves. An asssessment of 10 percent of stock value had been issued to cover additional costs. (Salt Lake Mining Review, November 15, 1922)
June 4, 1924
Silver King Coalition Mines Company purchased the Silver King Consolidated Mining Company and all of its claims and interests. The Spiro tunnel is shown as being 17,000 feet in length, and a tunnel was being driven to connect it with the workings of the Coalition company at the 1300-foot level, which was expected to take about one month to complete. (Salt Lake Mining Review, June 15, 1924)
"In the spring of 1936, the Silver King Coalition announced plans to sink a new shaft east of the old California-Comstock shaft in Thaynes Canyon. At the 1,800- foot level, it would connect with the western end of the Spiro Tunnel. The shaft reached the Spiro Tunnel in May 1939, helping ventilate some of the old workings and providing access to new ore bodies." (From The Ground Up, Park City, pages 329-332)
Starting Saturday January 10, 1965, the Spiro Tunnel was used as the "tunnel ski lift", likely one of the most unique ski lifts in the history of the sport. Skiers would enter into the mine in specially modified train cars that would take them three miles into the tunnel where a mine hoist transported them upward to the surface and they would ski down. Later, during the 1970s, the tunnel was used as a tourist attraction to show the details of underground mining. The following comes from the January 14, 1965 issue of the Park Record newspaper:
Spiro came to Park City in 1881, from Germany, to help his uncle in the mercantile business. he later managed a store in Park City, and began investing in mining claims in the area. In 1900, he sold out his mecantile interests to concentrate on mining.
A periodical of the time described the tunnel as the "greatest enterprise of his business career."
The main objectives of the tunnel were to open the western half of the Park City mining district for mining and to provide drainage for the tremendous amount of water in the area.
A estimated 3,000 gallons of water per minute still pours from the tunnel.
Once the tunnel was completed, the mining company was able to effectively work the area, and millions of dollars worth of lead-silver ore was removed.
The portion of the area served by the tunnel was last worked in 1937, and the mine was closed in 1948, according to marvin P. barnes, mine superintendent for United Park City Mines.
When the decision was made to reopen the tunnel to provide an all-weather ski lift and tourist attraction, more than $250,000 was poured back into the tunnel for renovation and repairs.
"Many timbers had to be replaced, and the water had covered a great deal of the track, making in unserviceable" Barnes said. In addition, the walls of the tunnel had sloughed off in several places.