Archives for: 2004

12/31/04

Permalink 04:39:15 am, Categories: Urban Exploration, 946 words   English (US)

rush, arkansas

Yesterday morning, before the sun had come up, I made the long drive down to the abandoned mining town of Rush, Arkansas on the Buffalo National River. I'd been there once before with Slim Jim last spring, but I hadn't had my new camera then. A lot of the pictures hadn't turned out very well, and I needed to take more.

The sun was just up by the time I got there. Thanks to my nagging insomnia, I hadn't slept a wink the night before. Also, I put off buying any bottled water until I was closer to Rush, and ended up being screwed when I realized there weren't any gas stations close to it.

I started out taking pictures of the few old buildings that remain at Rush, then I headed up on the mountain to check out the old mines. Most of the good mines have had steel bars mounted over the entrances to keep people out, but every once in a while you'll find one where someone has dug under the bars. And, if you go up higher on the mountain away from the trails, you can find lots of smaller mines that have never been sealed up.

Right away, I found one such mine high up on the mountain. I was way up away from the trail and noticed a small cave just barely big enough to squeeze into. I almost didn't check it out, thinking it was one of the many little caves that litter the area around here. I decided to go in, anyway, and was pleasantly surprised.

And let me tell you... You haven't experienced anxiety until you're crawling on your hands and knees into a dark mine tunnel in the middle of Arkansas bear country. Fear Factor's got nothing on this.

Once inside, the mine got much larger than the tunnel to crawl inside. It was at least ten feet high in places. The walls were also covered in crystal formations. It's not uncommon to find quartz crystal in red clay soil in Arkansas, especially down around the Hot Springs area. Here, though, it was scattered in places on the walls, so when I shined my light, it looked like twinkling stars all around me in the dark. It was eerie.

Back in the mine, I found a little side passage just big enough to crawl into. It led into yet another section of mine tunnel. Here the ceiling was supported with thick wooden beams that were rotting away to nothing. The floor was covered in a spongy mass of rotten wood where many of the supports had already disappeared.

I left that mine and continued on across the hills after that. I found mine after mine, all of them sealed up with bars. I tried in a few places to squeeze past the bars and the rock, but it was no use. If I'd had something to dig with, I probably could have, though. I also found places where there was still tracks laid out for the ore carts, though it was rusting away. They looked like miniature railroad tracks. At one part of the trail there was even a huge, metal ore cart just laying there stranded.

Toward the end of the trail, I found one large mine where someone had managed to dig under the bars. I took off my backpack, laid my camera where I could reach it, and squeezed under the bars. I managed to get through, but I got filthy in the process.

This particular mine was fairly big. I spent probably half an hour just wandering around inside, taking pictures of the old wooden beams and metal pipes laying around discared. It wasn't perfectly level, either. In some places the mine would suddenly slope up or down an entire story. When they'd dug the mine, they'd had to follow the vein of ore, no matter what direction it had gone.

When I was certain I'd seen all the tunnels inside, I headed back out to the trail. At the end, I walked back down the mountain, and walked the few miles down the road back to my car. When I got there, I got in and drove back into the area a little farther. I found that one of the old buildings that used to be there was burnt to the foundation and surrounded with police crime scene tape. Apparently some vandals had burnt the place down.

After that, I wandered around the campground next to the river. I saw turkey and deer all over the place. You couldn't even look at the ground there without seeing tracks for both animals.

Before I left, I drove to the edge of Rush and walked down yet another trail. Down near the end was another mine, the one called Monte Cristo. It was huge compared to the others, with several entrances, one of them at least two stories tall and covered with metal bars. I could see inside where it sloped down into the ground so far that my flashlight couldn't even show me how deep it went. I would've killed to get in there.

I'd intended to check out some more mines in Marion county while I was there and stop by Dodd City to see the old schoolhouse, but I'd spent about six hours at Rush at that point. I was exhausted from backpacking up and down the mountain on no sleep and without any water (although I admit to drinking a little of the filthy water from the creek in desperation). I finished taking the last of the pictures I needed for the site, headed home, and went to bed.

12/25/04

Permalink 11:07:30 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 537 words   English (US)

grave digger

I went to my father's house for Christmas today and ended up stumbling ass-backwards into what might be a great find.

While I was at his house, we drove down the road and he gave me a tour of a piece of land he'd bought a while back. He started telling me about how the Trail of Tears had come right by his property. Supposedly, a couple dozen Cherokee had died while camped in the area and they were buried somewhere close by. He said that some people from the Trail of Tears Association had even come to the area, and he had his neighbors had given them permission to search their properties for the grave sites.

Then things got really interesting. My father drove us down into the field on the property about a hundred yards, then we got out and walked back into the trees near the back. We came up on a flat area, and he began to point at several body-sized mounds littering the area.

It turned out when the Trail Association had come to my father, he'd immediately thought of those mounds. He didn't want to be rude to them, so he'd given them access to his property. However, he said nothing about the mounds because he was honestly afraid that their might be some sort of eminent domain thing where the government could take his land for archaeological purposes.

(Pretty ironic to see a white man worried about Native Americans taking his land, eh?)

I want to stress at this point that neither myself or my father were at all convinced that these were actually grave sites. We both thought it was possible it was just places where someone had dug up the ground for whatever reason, or perhaps where a tree had been blown over and had rotted away leaving only the dirt ripped up by its roots.

However, something really made us wonder. First of all, if it is just a place where it's been dug up, it had to have been done by hand. It's not at all uncommon to see odd places in a field where it's been bulldozed up in the past. But these mounds were surrounded on all sides by large, old trees, which meant no one had had any bulldozers back there in our lifetime. There's really no other reason to be digging in that area (no minerals, etc), other than grave digging.

I asked my father if he would mind if I came back sometime later with a shovel and carefully dug up one of the mounds. He said he had no problem with it, since he was curious as well. His one condition was that if we found anything, we wouldn't go public with it unless we were sure they couldn't take the land away permanently for that purpose, although he had no problem with them digging there as long as he retained ownership. I told him I didn't know if land could be taken for that reason, but that I would look into it. I kind of doubt that it could, but you just never know these days.

So, to make a long story short: I may be going grave digging!

12/22/04

Permalink 07:47:55 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 392 words   English (US)

steam tunnel scouting

A while back someone told me about a new building they were constructing at one of the universities in Springfield. Tonight, I was in the area and noticed the building for the first time. Since I've been wanting to get into that university's tunnel system for some time, I decided to go see if the new building had tunnel access.

I didn't have to do anything special to get into the building. There was a weak chain link fence around it, but I just undid a wire between a couple sections of it and squeezed through. Then I just waltzed in through a temporary wooden door that wasn't locked.

After walking around inside with a flashlight for a while, I realized there wasn't any tunnel access. I found where the steam pipes came in through the floor in a back area. It looked like they came underground from the building next door, and I wasn't going to be able to get into that one since everyone seemed to be gone for Christmas.

I went back inside and poked around the new building a little more. I went up on the second floor and found a bunch of kerosene heaters running. Since it was after dark and well below freezing at this point, I took the opportunity to take my gloves off and thaw my hands a little bit.

As I was leaving, I had a bit of a close call. I was outside the building in the shadows checking out a manhole with some steam coming out of it. The room underneath the manhole had steam pipes in it, but it turned out to be just a small chamber that didn't go anywhere. While I was sliding the manhole cover back in place, I heard a car door.

I looked up and the area immediately in front of me was lit up by a pair of headlights from a vehicle around the corner of the building beside me. I couldn't see anyone, but I could see the shadow of at least one person moving around. I didn't know if they were coming my way or had seen me, but I knew better than to stick around. I finished sliding the cover back in place, went back around the building the way I'd come, and ran the whole way back to my car.

Underground Ozarks Blog

Here you can read about White Rabbit's day-to-day explorations and adventures.

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