Places

About
Foundation
Partner Schools
Places Wire
Print Archive
Peer Review
Submissions
Donate
Contact


Departments

Critique
Essays
Gallery
Interviews
Multimedia
Partner News
Peer Reviewed
Poetry & Fiction
Projects


Topics

Architecture
Art
Books
Cities / Places
Community
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Infrastructure
Landscape
Literature
Photography
Planning
Politics / Policy
Preservation
Public / Private
Reputations
Sustainability
Technology
Transportation
Urbanism
Water



Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact




Gallery: Dennis DeHart

Heavy Metal



Firework stand on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation. [Photo by Dennis DeHart]

On a recent bicycle ride through Idaho’s Silver Valley, I encountered a black bear crossing the trail, a river otter building a home in the wetlands, and waterfowl fishing in Lake Chacolet, all while rolling along a smooth asphalt path capping a century’s worth of toxic mining waste.

The Silver Valley, in the Coeur d’Alene Basin, is one of the world’s largest and most contaminated historic mining districts. It was opened for industrial use by the Northern Pacific 1864 Land Grants, which converted 40 million acres of public land into mining and logging operations that supported the railroads’ westward expansion from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean. After the Civil War, many former Confederate soldiers migrated to the Silver Valley to work in the mines and smelters, many of which continued to operate through the early 1980s.

Since then, much of the basin has been designated as the Bunker Hill Mining and Metallurgical Complex Superfund Site. In 2004, the old Union Pacific railroad line was converted to a 73-mile recreational trail, which follows the river valley through the mountainous terrain. The trail’s asphalt cap and gravel barriers help contain contaminated rocks in the railbed, heavy metal tailings and spillage from trains.




The photographs presented here trace the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes from the old mining town of Mullan, Montana, to the largest city on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation, Plummer, Idaho, near the Washington border. The Coeur d'Alene, an Interior Salish tribe, manage the southern third of the watershed through a partnership with state and federal governments.

Billions of tons of contaminated sediment can be measured throughout the watershed and as far away as Lake Roosevelt in Washington. Seasonal flooding moves settled contaminants, including zinc, lead and arsenic, throughout the basin. Heavy logging of the adjacent U.S. National Forests through the early 1990s compounded erosion and the movement of waste materials. 

Legal settlements with the historic mining companies — including Hecla Mines, Coeur d’Alene Mines, and Asarco (source of the Guggenheim fortune) — have collected three-quarters of a billion dollars to support the environmental cleanup and restoration of the Silver Valley under the Superfund program.




Author’s Note 


In the summer of 2013, I joined a research tour of the Coeur d’Alene watershed led by Mark Solomon, a water research scientist, historian, logger, activist, storyteller and artist. Dr. Solomon’s robust, interdisciplinary knowledge of the regional environmental and social history informs this essay and slideshow.
Share This Story

RELATED POSTS


State of the Commons


Shelter


The Interventionist’s Toolkit: Our Cities, Ourselves


Lost Rivers


Barranca



RSSSubscribe to Comment Feed

Comments (1)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT >>

Coeur d'Alene has the highest per capita incidence of brain tumors. My father's oncologist told us that when he was diagnosed in 1998. One of the other prime industries is the production of grass seed which relies heavily on herbicides to keep the seed 98% pure. The place is so beautiful and so quietly toxic.
MN observer
11.25.13 at 04:15



LOG IN TO POST A COMMENT
Don't have an account? Create an account. Forgot your password? Click here.

Email


Password




Donate to Places: Your Support Makes Our Work Possible



ABOUT THE SLIDESHOW

A portfolio of images by photographer Dennis DeHart of the Coeur d'Alene Basin — a landscape of gorgeous vistas and Superfund cleanup sites.
View Slideshow >>

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dennis DeHart is a photographer and Assistant Professor at Washington State University.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









MORE ON American West


800 Miles: Photographing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
On Places, a portfolio of photographs by Peter Bo Rappmund, who has documented nearly every mile of the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

Look Only at the Movement
On Places, a documentary project by Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth of Smudge Studio, focusing on the materiality of nuclear waste transport.

Walking the Darkness Home
On Places, Adelheid Fischer recounts a journey to the Grand Canyon — to a dangerous and redemptive place that by turns epitomizes and defies the expectations (and clichés) of the famous landscape.

Resurveying the West
On Places, a slideshow of images of the American West by the New York-based photographer Victoria Sambunaris and the 19th-century pioneer William Henry Jackson, curated by Aaron Rothman.

Camino del Diablo
On Places, photographer Mark Klett journeys along the Camino del Diablo in the Sonoran Desert, much of which is now a bombing range, and finds a landscape of forbidding danger and compelling beauty.

Nowhere and Everywhere: The Landscape of the Colorado Delta
On Places, planner Armando Carbonell explores, in aerial photographs, the fragile yet resilient landscapes of the Colorado River Delta.

Above Lake Las Vegas
On Places, aerial photographs of the bankrupt luxury communities of Lake Las Vegas, by Michael Light.

We Are in a Western Town
On Places, Aaron Rothman explores the enduring power of the photographs of Robert Adams, and what they reveal about the paradoxical landscape of the American West.

Drylands: Water and the West
On Places, an essay and slideshow by Peter Arnold and Hadley Arnold of the Arid Lands Institute, on what they call "the largest and least understood environmental challenge of the 21st century."

If There Be Such Space
On Places, a slideshow drawn from a collaborative exhibition by two photographers who share an interest in the perception and representation of natural landscapes.

Thirsty City
On Places, Austin Troy assesses the massive infrastructure required to bring water to the arid American West — and the huge amount of energy that makes it possible to take a shower in Los Angeles.

The Hills Are Alive
On Places, Michael Branch reflects on how deeply photography and film shape our landscape aesthetics (and how much he detests the Alpine-worshipping The Sound of Music).

Bird on Fire: Lessons from the World's Least Sustainable City
On Places, Andrew Ross analyzes the contradictory political and economic forces that once made Phoenix the fastest-growing city in the U.S. — and today a prime casualty of the crash.

Water in the West
On Places, a slideshow from the collaborative photography project Water in the West, with an introduction by Mark Klett.

The Half-Life of History
On Places, writer William Fox and photographer Mark Klett document the semi-ruin of the WW II military airfield at Wendover, Utah, where the U.S. Air Force trained for the bombing of Hiroshima.

Views Across Time
On Places, an interview with photographer Mark Klett and a slideshow from his ongoing rephotography project, with views across time of the American West.

The Edge of Light: Wendover
On Places, photographs by Brian Rosa and Adam Ryder document the nighttime mysteries of Wendover, where military history, land-speed racing and the casino industry make for unexpected juxtapositions.

Soundscapes: Burning Man
On Places, a selection of soundscapes — ranging from dust storms to diesel generators — recorded by architect Nick Sowers at the latest Burning Man.

Burning Man and the Metropolis
On Places, Nate Berg looks at Burning Man, and how a beach party in San Francisco mushroomed into a week-long temporary city of 50,000 out in the Nevada desert.

Land, Speed and Bonneville
On Places — coinciding with Speed Week at Bonneville — a gallery created by architect Martin Hogue documents decades of land speed racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats of western Utah.

Las Vegas
Writer and critic William L. Fox reviews Las Vegas, by Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern, probing the improbable success of the gambling-entertainment world-city constructed in the midst of the Mojave.

Urbanizing the Mojave
America's greatest boomtown has gone bust. Architects Nicole Huber and Ralph Stern explore the cultural and environmental consequences of the rapid expansion of Las Vegas into the Mojave Desert, tracing a troubled history of mining, militarization, tourism, and water politics.

MORE BY Dennis DeHart

04.18.13: Confluences
More by Dennis DeHart >>