Approximately 30 miles northeast of Terrace, across the Skeena River from Highway 16, is the historic community of Dorreen. There, running along the railway track from the old station to the railway bridge over Fiddler Creek, are the remains of community that at first glance seems to have been simply left behind
This area, where Fiddler Creek and Lorne Creek join the Skeena River, is the traditional territory of the Gitxsan. In the 1880s, this area hosted a frenzy of gold-seekers. Chinese and European miners were recorded living on the west side of the Skeena at Lorne Creek, upriver from Dorreen, in 1884. They sluiced and panned the creek gravels – as many as 180 miners in 1885. For most of the prospectors their efforts were not rewarded and the gold boom at Lorne Creek went bust by 1888. The majority packed their bags and moved on to the next rumoured gold creek.
In 1884 prospectors from the Bahamas recovered $600 worth of placer gold in two days ($29,000 in todays value).
Lorne Creek flows easterly into the Skeena River some 27 miles north of Terrace. In the mouth of Lorne Creek valley is a dome shaped mountain, on the south side of which the modern creek emerges through a canyon. A buried pre-glacial channel lies north of the dome and about 2,000′ north of the present creek, and is known as “Dry Hill”.
Placer gold was discovered on the creek in 1883 by Harry McDame. He returned in 1884 to locate claims about a mile above the mouth of the creek for Samuel Booth, of Victoria and himself. For the next 15 years intermittent small scale operations were carried on by individual operators in the bed of the present creek.
In about 1898 the existence of a segment of buried pre-glacial channel was recognized and early attempts at working the Dry Hill were encouraging. In 1902 the Dry Hill Hydraulic Mining Company, of Whatcom, Washington, began operations following the construction of a dam and flumes. The scale of the operation was increased in 1914 by the construction of a larger flume 26 miles in length. Intermittent operations continued into 1917 when the company closed the project. Of the apparent 2,000′ of pre-glacial channel only about 350′ was washed out, and this apparently not to bedrock. Good recoveries were reported at times but overall values were less than costs involved.
The numerous quartz veins, all more or less mineralized, which are to be seen at almost all points of the creek from the mouth upwards are an obvious indication of the local source of the placer gold. The appearance of the gold itself is fairly coarse and nuggety. One nugget found in 1931 by James Jones weighed 1 1/2 ounces. The placer occurs on low-lying benches of small dimensions and in the bed of the creek. Numerous remnant segments of earlier channels, of which “Dry Hill” is the most important, are to be seen at different points of the creek, at vertical heights above the creek varying up to 500 feet.
Lorne Creek produced 13,310 troy ounces of placer , an amazing $20,400,000 in todays value.
As For Dorreen, it was never a boom-and-bust town; it always just survived. Highway 16 was completed on the opposite side of the river from Dorreen in 1944, which meant people and traffic could move east and west without going through the settlement. It was the end for other railway communities, but not for Dorreen because a mine invested in the mountains above Dorreen in 1949. The school operated sporadically through the 1940s but closed permanently in 1953 when the mine shut down. Economics changed and isolated little Dorreen, with just seasonal employment and subsistence farming, shrank slowly but steadily. There was a small resurgence of settlers in the late 1960s but that too did not last.
Dorreen was nominated for inclusion as a heritage site in the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine’s Heritage Register.