Mineral Lake Area and History
Nestled in the forested mountains in view of the majestic Mount Rainier, Mineral Lake, located only 17 miles from the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park and easily accessible off Highway 7 between Elbe and Morton, offers some of the best trout fishing in western Washington. A Washington State Trout Management Lake, Mineral Lake is stocked with Rainbow, German Brown, Triploid Steelhead and Brood Stock. Both Cutthroat and crayfish are natural inhabitants. The natural feed in the lake from decomposed logs and freshwater shrimp boosts the fertility of Mineral beyond the norm for lakes in western Washington and promotes rapid growth and big healthy fish well over 11 pounds.
The small proud community of Mineral wears its colorful history with a comfortable and easy going charm. Ripples of a rich past recall the days of steam logging when Mineral Lake served as a holding pond for the bustling mill that sprawled at the south end of its shores. Huge old growth timber was dropped from rail cars and plunged into the lake’s clear cold water. These giants were sorted and then pulled into the mill to feed the economy of this 1900′s boom town. Random remains of this operation can still be seen surrounding the shores of Mineral Lake. The view of Mount Rainier from these shores remains unchanged and magnificent.
Mineral can also boast being the site of the nation’s smallest post office. Measuring a full eight by eight feet square, it was built in 1898. Blackberry vines are now its only patrons and its single message….a wooden plaque telling of its role during Mineral’s heyday. In addition to the historic post office, nearby there is an old log building, the historic Mineral Lake Lodge, that during its time was thought to be the largest log structure west of the Mississippi. Excitement erupts in Mineral when the water is warm and the crayfish population appears. The smell of cooking crayfish and special sauces bring a Bayou, Cajun theme to the hearts of everyone.
Mineral Lake, famous for its excellent fishing all season, is a spectacular on opening weekend with its festivities, garage sales and the popular American Legion Fishing Derby. This tiny community hosts all the excited smiling faces, whether young or old, satisfied anglers hook into their limits before the lunch hour and half-hour limits of lunker rainbows over 5 pounds don’t even raise eyebrows. Opening day folks quickly disappear, the dust settles, and this pristine lake stays a strong producer throughout the season.
History of Mineral
Life Before the Train Rolled Down Into Morton
By LaVonne Sparkman — A local historian and author who has produced two books about area history. Her column appears in the Journal (Morton, WA) once a month. At one point in our history, the railroad had turned Mineral into a logging boomtown. In the early days of this century, Mineral was a larger town than Morton. The early settlers came during the same block of time, but the railroad reached Mineral several years before it was extended into Morton. In 1903, the Mineral Lake Lumber Mill was a large industry and employed a large number of men. Located on the south edge of Mineral Lake, the mill was served by Tacoma Eastern Railroad, which was necessary for the lumber to reach market. Not only were the early settlers employed, but there was a settlement of Japanese people whose men worked in the mill.
In the period between 1900 an 1922, Mineral’s Front Street was lined with businesses that were prospering. A panorama photo taken in 1906 shows the large mill, M.R. Smith’s shingle mill under construction, two hotels, saloons, a barber shop, two grocery and general merchandise stores (another was added later), a post office in Walrath’s General Store, and several small businesses. Within the next 15 years, a number of commercial buildings were built, including a car agency, a large motel that housed employees of the Westfork Logging Company for many years, the Mineral lake Lodge whish is still in use, an ice cream parlor, a garage and service station, machine shop, a building for storing automobiles, a big schoolhouse that replaced the old log cabin the school was first in, and numerous homes.
An arsenic mine was operating up Mineral Creek until about 1920 when the mineral became available as a by-product of a manufacturing process that resulted in the arsenic being produced cheaper than it could be mined.
In the same era, Morton’s first commercial building went up for a general store with a hotel on the second floor. Built by George Hopgood, it was near Backstrom Park at Seventh and Main streets. There were only a small number of homes then in an area now known as Old Town, the part of town west of Seventh Street. Before this, a small store was doing business on the other side of the Tilton River.
In 1909, Thomas Hopgood and Robert L. Herselman bought the Fred D. Reed homestead and platted the town of East Morton, which became the location of the main business district clustered around Second and Main. Businesses in Morton were added slowly because the railroad ended up on the divide between Morton and Mineral, known as Glenavon, all mail and freight had to be hauled about six miles from there into Morton by horses and wagons. In the meantime, Mineral was benefitting from having the Tacoma Eastern Railroad serving both freight customers and passengers.
July of 1910 was a real red-letter time for Morton, celebrated by many of the residents — that was when the railroad finally reached town. This marked a big improvement in connections to Tacoma for business. Most importantly, it marked a way to haul lumber and other products to markets. Morton began to thrive. Mineral suffered a blow that stunted its growth when the Mineral Lake Lumber Company burned in 1922. The decision to not rebuild the mill meant the loss of jobs for a large number of residents in the little town. Many people moved away, including the settlement of Japanese, of whom quite a few moved to National (between Elbe and Ashford) to work in the large mill there.
Mineral never recovered its prosperity, even though the shingle mill was in business for a long time. Meanwhile, business buildings were being added to Morton. Even though Morton suffered a huge loss in the fire of July 1924 that wiped out the center of town, the businessmen quickly rebuilt. The 1920′s saw the end of the boom in the boomtown of Mineral while Morton grew into a larger town.
Phone: (360) 492-5367