Leed is known for an ENORMOUS gold rush that rivaled the one in California. Lead is pronounced “leed” and was officially founded in 1876, after gold was discovered in the creek running through the area. Lead is a mining term meaning an outcrop of gold ore.
The mine is HUGE!
Look at the map of the mine above and notice the cone shaped indentation in the surface. It is 1,200 feet deep and 1/2 mile wide. When standing looking down it looks huge but when compared to the rest of the mine it is tiny. The mine extends down 8,000 feet.
One of the first enterprises of the Gold Rush of 1876 was Homestake Gold Mine. The Homestake Gold Mine was claimed by two brothers, Fred and Moses Manuel, and their partner, Hank Harney on April 9, 1876. In June of 1877, George Hearst purchased the claim from the Manuel brothers for a mere $70,000. The Homestake Gold Mine would go on to produce over 40 million ounces of gold during its lifetime, valuing over a billion dollars. The mine would also go on to accomplish many technological and civic achievements. The Homestake Gold Mine was America’s longest continuously operated gold mine. It closed in 2002 as the oldest, largest and deepest mine in the western hemisphere, stretching over 8,000 feet below the town of Lead. Lead is at 5,200 feet in elevation so that means that the bottom of the mine is about 3,000 feet below sea level.
The 370 miles of tunnels that were dug during the mine's 126 years of activity.
Homestake Mining Company carved 370 miles of tunnels as deep as 8,000 feet, creating one of the deepest mines in the country Forty million ounces of gold were removed from the mine. By the time of this post, that would be $72 billion. This does not include the $140 million in silver removed.
From our tour, we learned that two things are always found in a mine. It's hot and there is water. Normally I think of caves and caverns as cool and they are but once you pass the 4,000 foot level it starts to be warm to hot. At 4,800 foot level the rock is over 90 degrees and at 8,000 feet it is over 120 degrees. Mining requires lots of ventilation to keep the air cool enough to allow miners to work. My first thought is that the mine would be fairly dry being just a hole dug in rock but the humidity in the mine is regularly above 95% and in some areas closer to 100%.
The mine closed in 2000 because the value of the gold dropped to $200 an ounce. The cost to mine the gold was $400 an ounce. Sanford University continues to do research in the mine. Tunnels in the mine are so long and interconnected that a particle accelerator was assembled inside. The purpose was for the isolation of the equipment from solar particles. You may not know that neutrinos are generated in stars including ours and they pass through most matter unaffected. When they pass through several 1,000 feet of earth, they are absorbed. One of the current experiment is for neutrinos to be generated at Fermilab near Chicago and attempt to detect them in Lead, SD. Not sure how they determine which ones were generated but so cool and nerdy. I liked the science behind the idea.
The museum had several examples of gold both raw and refined.
There were many examples of the early days of panning to mining in the area.
The guided tour takes you down into a simulated mine. It includes examples from the early days with candles for light to more modern equipment.
Early in the mines existence, mules and horses were used. They even went so far as to set aside a portion of the mine as a stable. Some animals lived most of their lives in the mine. The pollution of the animals and the problems of any other engine caused them to look for a non-polluting alternative. What they came up with was a "train" powered by compressed air.
They had an example of a "Little Red Wagon" .
Next, we drove the mile back down to Deadwood. The town has been destroyed several times both by floods and fires. Each time they rebuilt the town back. The town is very heavily oriented to tourists. They even have a stage couch and regularly scheduled shootouts.
Deadwood is where Wild Bill Hickok was murdered. So many "colorful" people like Calamity Jane, Poker Alice, Seth Bullock, and Al Swearengen actually lived in Deadwood.
Almost every building has gambling of some kind, the hotels, gift shops, restaurants, ... it's everywhere.
The only vice that is no longer legal in Deadwood is prostitution. Several of the original locations of brothels still exist like the Pink Door and Purple Door but are now stores. Many of the upper floors have mannequins dressed in lingerie visible from the street.
We had lunch in the Gem Steakhouse which is part of the Mineral Palace Casino and Hotel. This is where the dance hall in the Deadwood TV show was set. Shawna had a Ribeye Steak Salad which she said was very good. I had the Buffalo Bill Combo which was texas toast covered with mashed potatoes, red unions, Roast Buffalo steak, and covered with brown gravy. We enjoyed watching from the front windows overlooking the street below.
We also visited a winery for some wine tasting.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...