Opinike (or Potatoe) River Property

March 20, 2016

By Amorin Mello

"Map Showing the Succession of Layers Along Potato River" by R. D. Irving, 1873. Reproduced from the Geology of Wisconsin: Volume III.

“Map Showing the Succession of Layers Along Potato River” by R. D. Irving, 1873. Reproduced from the Geology of Wisconsin: Volume III.

 

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OPINIKE

(OR POTATOE)

RIVER PROPERTY,

TOWN 46, NORTH RANGE 1, WEST, SECTIONS 16 & 17,

480 ACRES,

ASHLAND COUNTY, WISCONSIN.

————–

Detail of Township 45 North, Range 1 West, from Charles Whittlesey’s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range.

Detail of the Opinike River Property and the Ironton trail in Township 45 North, Range 1 West, from Charles Whittlesey’s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range.

The “Charter Oak” Mining Company occupied these premises in 1845-6 under permits from the government. The reports of the agents of the Company at that time state that copper bearing veins were found in the trap rocks next above the lower Falls. In geological characters and position, the rocks are the same here as at the Upper Falls of the Montreal, herein described. Next below the sandstone is the same black slate; below this the conglomerate, then alternating bands of sandstone and trap, and beneath them the main body of brown and amygdaloid trap. Like the Montreal River beds, they are here tilted up at a high angle to the North-west, their line of outcrop bearing North-east. They are, however, reduced in thickness materially, the conglomerate being about 600 feet, and the bands f sandstone are fewer in number. over the conglomerates, and over the trap, there are several falls and chutes in the river, amounting to 125 or 130 feet in a mile.

Detail of the Upper Falls (Saxon Falls) on the Montreal River in Township 47 North, Range 1 East from Charles Whittlesey’s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range.

Detail of the Upper Falls (Saxon Falls) on the Montreal River and the Old Flambeau Trail in Township 47 North, Range 1 East from Charles Whittlesey’s 1860 Geological Map of the Penokie Range.

Here, as at the Montreal, the best trap is above the chutes, where it is well exposed in the channel of the river. For one mile above the Lower Falls the trap is of a favorable character ; but above this is not visible until the old Ironton trail is reached. The thickness of the productive trap is not as great as it is at the Montreal River. I judge that this tract covers the entire breadth of the soft brown amygdaloid trap. So far as I can form an opinion from the eternal character of the rocks, they promise as well as any part of this range. No part of the ground has been tested by recent explorations for veins, but there is abundant encouragement for a thorough trial. It must be remembered that it is only in the streams that the rocks composting the best part of this copper range are visible. From the Montreal to the Opinike River, neither the conglomerate nor the trap rises above the level of the country. From the Opinike to the forks of Bad River on Section 17, Town 45, Range 2, West, a distance South-easterly of about nine (9) miles, the productive belt of trap does not show itself above the drift materials, which over the country. The process of exploration is therefore much more tedious than it would be if the uplift was elevated into a high mountain ridge, with rocky cliffs exposed to view.

Ironton townsite claim at Saxon Harbor with trails to Odanah and the Penoka Iron Range. (Detail from Wisconsin Public Land Survey Records during November of 1861)

Detail of Ironton landing and trail from T47N R1W.

Ironton is the proper landing for works at the Opinike Falls, as well as for the Montreal River, and the distance is about nine miles. About two miles up the river, the Ironton trail to the Iron Range, crosses the River Opinike. It is highly probable the Ashland Copper Mining Company, which is now at work at the forks of Bad River, will seek an outlet this way. Although there is not a natural harbor at Ironton Landing, there is an angle in the cast which gives shelter to all but Northern winds, and the deep water approaches near the shore. Piers that were sunk there in 1857, have not yet been moved from their foundations by storms or by floating ice. This is the natural outlet for that part of the Iron Range which is East of the Penokie Gap. Although the country is somewhat mountainous, there are no serious obstacles to prevent highways, plank-roads or railroads from being built. Whatever mines may be developed on either the Copper or the Iron Range East of the Bad River, will find this the most convenient route to reach the lake. The water-power of the Opinike is at the upper chutes twenty-eight (28) feet and the lower seventy-five (75) feet – the latter being over the conglomerate rock and the former over trap. It is about three-fourths of a mile between them, and in the distance the river is rapid over a rocky bed. There is sufficient timber on the tract for all mining purposes, and a portion of the soil is equal to any in the country.

From the falls of the Opinike to Lehy’s saw-mill, at the falls of Bad River, is about nine (9) miles, in a North-westerly direction. Batteaux can reach Lehy’s mill from the lake during the ordinary stage of water. There is an Indian trail from Lehy’s to the falls, over a level country, somewhat more feasible for a road than the route to Ironton, but for the purposes of a mine the Ironton landing is much preferable. The flow of water in the Opinike is not equal to that of the Montreal, but the total fall is greater. Should workable mineral be found here – as appearances lead me confidently to anticipate – the location has advantages of position and water-power such as to place it next the Montreal River property for economical mining.

CHAS. WHITTLESEY,

Geologist and Mining Engineer.

Cleveland, Jan’y 1st, 1865.

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