Situated approximately 11 kilometers (6.6 miles) east-south-east from Salmo in the southern West Kootenay region of British Columbia, remains what is now left of the once famed Sheep Creek Mining Camp. The camp has produced almost two-thirds of the lode gold credited to the Nelson Mining Division. Although it is currently non-productive, it ranks as the sixth camp in British Columbia in terms of total lode gold produced to the end of 1951.
Gold-bearing veins were first discovered in the Sheep Creek area in 1896, and led to staking of the initial claims to cover the Yellowstone and Queen veins. Limited production in the Sheep Creek camp began in 1900 with the development of the Yellowstone mine, followed shortly by the development of the Queen mine. Additional discoveries of important auriferous veins were made in 1904-1905 and ultimately led to the development of the Kootenay Belle, Nugget and Motherlode mines by 1911. The Reno vein, discovered in 1912 and soon after put into production, was the last significant discovery made in the Sheep Creek gold camp, but became its most productive mine.
The Queen Mine, nestled on the west side of Waldie Creek (immediately prior its confluence with Sheep Creek), began production in about 1900. In 1908 a new 20 stamp mill was built on the property and the Queen crushed about 60 tons of ore per day. In 1935 a new 50 ton mill was put into operation. In its latter years, the ore was treated at the Yellowstone mill. However, it was reported during the era that only about 60 percent of the gold was recovered. Amalgamation was used to extract the gold from the ore.
Production for the Sheep Creek gold camp from 1900 to 1951 was 741,515 ounces (23,064 kg) of gold, 364,793 ounces (11,346 kg) of silver, and minor amounts of lead and zinc.
Total production from other mines including the Motherlode, Bluestone, Reno, Nugget, Gold Belt and Queen/Sheep Creek is approximately 623,140 ounces (19,382 kg) of gold and 321,000 ounces (9,984 kg) of silver from the processing of 1,414,400 tons (1,283,100 tonnes) of ore, or about 84% of the camp’s total gold production.
It has been assessed that in the early 80’s, a vast amount in fine gold escaped processing at the Queen Mine, of which a significant portion flowed downstream via Sheep Creek. By today’s gold prices, this would easily equate to somewhere between $15,000,000 to $30,000,000 or more. And it is therefore logistical to conclude a significant quantity of that vast amount of lost gold would had been deposited along the entire watercourse of Sheep Creek, from the Queen Mine, downstream toward its confluence with the Salmo River.
High water levels on Sheep Creek generally commence during April to May, then recedes over the next month or so. Streamside placer mining in this area could be expected to run from late May or June through till as late as November, pending favourable weather conditions. Great possibilities still exist on this famous creek.