In the Owyhee country of 1864, on the slopes of War Eagle Mountain and the headwaters of Jordon Creek, one of the most rowdy, rough and tumble mining towns was born.  The civility was such in that town called Silver City, at about the 8000′ elevation level, makes one wonder if it was the rarefied air or smell of buried treasure that contributed the most to malfunctions of the bi-pedal  brain.  At least the mayhem  factor from all the  avarice that normally  follows the discovery of some precious gems or ores, is the more likely causation for poor human behavior.

Most mining camps of old have colorful, yet violent bent histories, when examined with the passage of time.  Silver City had quite the adequate reputation to qualify for a typical wild west profile. Perhaps one of the best in the west,  or worst, depending on the prism you view it through. But, it hardly matters which mining camp could claim the absolute winner for any such title of the west, as anyone killed in those places when they were at the zenith of their stardom, could care less when six feet under.

Ruby City was also nearby, within a  half mile of Silver City,  on that same nose bleed zone side slope of War Eagle Mountain. Competition was keen between the two towns, but Silver City seemed to win most of the time, as it was closest to the more productive mines. But the most famous was called the Poorman Man, (at $5000/ton) and at a 500′ depth  produced a 500 lb nugget (called the “Poorman Nugget”), found in 1865.  It contained  all silver and ruby crystals in one massive ball, and became legendary, earning gold metal in the 1866 Paris Exposition.

The ores from the Silver city mine were so rich, that they were  shipped to Wales to be specially processed.  The town was around 5000 people at its peak, (1866) and considering the number of  fives in everything associated with this town, one might deduce paying attention to astrology, if so inclined to being easily swayed by weird superstitions. Perhaps some of the miners were so influenced, as talk circulated for a while about Owyhee diamonds, though none were ever found. Or maybe that thinking was caused by another astrological event that happened in 1867 when a huge meteor flashed across the heavens. Some thought it signaled the end of the world, others were thinking treasure, like diamonds, at the end of the rainbow.

For me, the real treasure of the Owyhee  is contained in the flow of the river. It takes travelers to a landscape rich in scenic wonders beyond dollar bills.   The only competition now, is an occasional race for certain campsites, but even that is rare. At least since the mining era, civility has seemed to gain an inch or so, on the evolutionary ladder of time. The wild west today, is more in the wildness of landscape, rather than human greed.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.

Don’t Forget. Now is the time for Owyhee Trips – see previous post: How Alone Do You Want to Be?

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