Back in December, I took a trip to visit Liberty, Washington. This was the first time I had ever actually been to this small mining town, and I had a fun time exploring the area.
For a gold miner like myself, I have always been fascinated with the Liberty mining district. The most exciting thing about this area was the size of some of the gold nuggets that have been found here. Some of the nuggets found here were HUGE. During the early days, it was not uncommon for miners to unearth nuggets weighing many pounds each. The largest ever found was 70 troy ounces!
Liberty is also known for some really neat crystalline gold specimen. I have had the chance to handle quite a few of these specimens over the years, and they are really neat. They are generally very thin crystals, wires, and clusters… anywhere in size from just a few grains up to several ounces. They are really cool, and gold collectors really like them.
As much as I was interested in the area for its crystalline specimens and large gold nuggets, there is something else that has always fascinated me about the Liberty area, and that is the relative small size of the mining district.
I have prospected quite a bit in northern California, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. In most of these states, there are extensive gold districts that are quite expansive. Most gold-bearing areas will have many rivers and creeks that have good gold. And there are usually clusters of mining areas not too far away… either over the next ridge or a few miles away. Once you are in gold country, the areas that you can find gold are fairly expansive.
Not so with gold mining in Liberty, Washington. Nearly all of the gold here was mined from the placer deposits on Swauk Creek and Williams Creek, as well as a few smaller tributaries as well as some elevated river channels and bench deposits. Yes, there are certainly a few places in the surrounding area where gold can be found, but the extremely rich area that produced the large gold nuggets was really limited to just a few square miles.
Liberty is still a neat little community with evidence of its historic past.
As you drive into town, there is a sign welcoming you to Liberty, stating that it is the oldest mining town in the state of Washington with a bit of history about the first gold rush that occurred there.
Across the road is an old arrasta, a replica of one that was once used at a nearby mine to grind ore. There are also a few ore carts on display. Driving through town, there are some great old homesteads that appear to be original structures. Look close and you will see lots of old mining relics hidden in the weeds.
There is also a great informational sign that talks about the gold nuggets that Liberty was famous for. There was nowhere else in Washington that even came close to producing nuggets of this size.
There is still some active mining taking place here, and certainly evidence of past mining activity can still be seen along Swauk and Williams Creeks. Bucketline dredges were used along some parts of the creek, and extensive ground sluicing from years past can still be seen today.
While certainly most of the gold here was found long ago, there are still some good discoveries being made. I recall just a few seasons ago some prospectors found a couple nuggets weighing over 10 ounces each. So they are still out there!
A informational sign shows some of the amazing nuggets that have been mined in Liberty.
This replica of an arrastra is on the left side as you enter town.
Downstream of Liberty on Swauk Creek, historic mining activity is clearly evident.
The sign that welcomes you as you enter Liberty.Additional Reading about Washington Gold:Gold Mining in Washington StateThe Potato Patch Nuggets from LibertyGold Rush to Washington StateStart Finding Gold in Washington eBook