The Joker Mine is located at an altitude of 9,620 ft. about .7 miles directly south of the Rambler. It is situated within the Medicine Bow National Forest near the crest of a gently sloping ridge separating Bear Creek on the north from Dave Creek on the south. Both Bear and Dave Creeks were placer mined for gold in the latter 19th century and were included in operations known collectively as the Albany Placers. The Joker Mine site is presently within a dense stand of pines, and the previous access road is likewise overgrown with tall lodgepole pines. The site can only be reached at present with a hike of about .3 miles through dense timber. This fact, in addition to the scant publicity the mine has received over the years, have likely contributed to its comparatively unaltered condition and setting.
The Douglas Creek Mining District of southern Wyoming is located about 45 miles west of Laramie along the eastern flank of the Medicine Bow Mountains. The district is situated in Albany County within Townships 13, 14 and 15 North, and Ranges 78 and 79 West. Numerous smaller tributaries of Douglas Creek are included in the district, all having been prospected to a greater or lesser degree for gold, copper and other minerals.
Despite accounts of gold discoveries as early as the 1850’s, the first documented find in the area is attributed to Iram M. Moore in the fall of1868. Moore’s discovery, (in the gulch which continues to bear his name), led to active prospecting the following year. The Douglas placer district was quickly organized with Moore elected first president. About $8,000 worth of gold was reportedly taken from the stream gravels of Moore’s Gulch in the spring of 1869. This was carried out by simple sluice, rocker and gold panning methods.
From these humble beginnings, placer mining became a large-scale enterprise by the l890’s, with several companies organized to systematically mine the gold deposits along Douglas Creek and its tributaries. The Douglas Consolidated Mining and Milling Company, incorporated in 1892, emerged as the principal placer mining company in the district. Other notable operations included the Home, Albany and Spring Creek placers.
Early in the development of these operations, it was found that much of the recovered gold was coarse, with nuggets occasionally weighing between .8 and 3/4 ounces and containing a considerable amount of quartz. For many prospectors, this fact led to the assumption that the gold had not traveled far from its point of origin. Attention began to focus on promising quartz veins, and numerous lode mining claims were soon filed.
The first authenticated lode claim in the district, (and also evidently the first within Albany County), was the Morning Star, later known as the Douglas Mine. This mine was claimed in 1870 on the west bank of Douglas Creek. The Douglas Mine portended a common pattern of mine development. While likely located originally for its gold prospects, an ore vein was encountered at the 35 ft. level in the shaft which contained abundant copper in various mineralized forms.
Other important gold strikes followed in the Douglas Creek district and elsewhere within the Medicine Bow Mountains: The Centennial Mine in the Centennial Ridge district (1876), the Keystone Mine in the southern portion of the Douglas Creek district (1878), and the Cummins camp at Jelm in 1879. The Douglas Creek district was reportedly worked by some 200 miners by 1878. Total gold production in the district from both lode and placer mines was placed at about $229,000 by 1893.
Despite this activity and the ongoing promotional efforts of the newspapers and other boosters to extol the area’s mineral wealth to potential investors, gold production generally fell short of expectations. Many of the principal lode mines were closed or languishing by 1900. Then, in that year rich copper deposits were discovered at the 65 ft. level in the shaft of the New Rambler Mine, situated at the northern end of the district. Located many years earlier for its gold prospects, the Rambler’s valuable copper ores brought the mine to the forefront of attention and once again precipitated a mining boom in the area.
While much of the preceding historical discussion has focused on the New Rambler Mine, generally regarded as the preeminent producer in the Douglas Creek district, the intent has been to establish the chronology and significant events in the Rambler’s development in order to establish possible connections with the nearby Joker Mine. The Joker’s own history and mineral production are obscure and not well documented in the available geological reports and historical sources. Therefore, much of the Joker’s history must be based on reasoned conjecture supported by the available evidence.