Murray is a small mining community located in Idaho’s Panhandle region of northern Idaho near the Montana border. The first discovery of gold in this remote region occurring nearly 4 decades after the gold was found at
Sutter's Mill in California
The rush to Murray is considered to be the last great gold rush in the lower-48 states.
Although the discovery of gold was made much later, this part of Idaho had been mined extensively for many years. Not far to the south is the exceedingly rich Silver Valley, also known as the Couer D’Alene mining district. Although gold had been mined here for decades prior to the discoveries at Murray, it was silver that attracted so much attention to the region.
The discovery of placer gold on Pritchard Creek was what drew thousands of men to the small valley. The first community to build up was Eagle, at the confluence of Pritchard Creek and Eagle Creek. Placer deposits were mined from the Couer D’Alene River upstream almost all the way to the
Eagle began growing in 1881, and Murray was formed a few miles upstream as richer ground was discovered. It is estimated that the population reached close to 2000 people at the height of mining there.
Placer mining was active for several years for several miles along Pritchard Creek. Smaller diggings could also be found in nearby Beaver Creek, Eagle Creek, Trail Creek, and the North Fork of the Couer D’Alene River. Many of the small gulches and drainages around Murray will produce placer gold.
Large gold nuggets
were not uncommon during the early mining at Murray. It was said that one chunk of gold was so large that it had to be broken in half to be picked up. There are several documented discoveries of gold nugget weighing over 10 ounces being found there.
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Much of the gold that is found in Murray has quartz inclusions, and some really beautiful gold in quartz specimens can still be found there. It is very common for nuggets to be rather smooth and water worn, with both white and rose colored quartz attached to them.
Murray was all but abandoned by the end of the 1880’s, but there was a revival of mining activity during the Great Depression in the area. Much of Pritchard Creek was reworked with a bucket line dredge, and today there are large tailing piles that can been seen for miles up and down Pritchard Creek.
There is a small amount of prospecting still going on today. I know a few people that use metal
metal detectors to search for gold nuggets in the summer around Murray and Wallace, and they do quite well.
When I visited this area in May of 2015, I saw a few different placer mining operations with heavy equipment and
trommels set up. I also chatted with an older gentleman in downtown Murray that was processing concentrates through a blue bowl concentrator in his driveway. So clearly there is still some gold being found here.
Today, Murray is a very small community with just a few businesses and mostly retirees rather than active gold miners, but there is still considerable wealth hidden in the mountains surrounding the town for those willing to look for it.
A trommel on Beaver Creek, and dredge tailings at Pritchard Creek.
More dredge tailings on Pritchard Creek and an old ore cart in downtown Murray.
A stamp mill on display in downtown Murray, and what might be the tiniest post office in Idaho.
A shot of downtown Murray, and more dredge tailing upstream of town.