Spring Time Hike to the Historic Franklin Townsite,
Mine, Cemetery, and Black Diamond Springs
Franklin was a company-owned coal mining town in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town site was nestled alongside the Green River Gorge and has many cement foundations, a 1,300-foot coal mine shaft, cemetery, and other reminders of what it was like when coal was king in the King County area.
Spring is a beautiful time to explore the area. The brown of winter is replaced with brilliant greens. The white lace of Ocean Spray hangs off a drapery of branches. The pink flowers of Salmon berry give way to plump juicy orange berries as spring moves into summer. Bunches of cascara berries are like bright beacons of red in the forest. On the ground giant Trillium briefly show their three leafed white flowers. Everywhere there is bird song as the forest awakes. Everything is new and the forest is habitat for fawns, coyote pups, bear cubs, mountain beaver and raccoon kits.
Along the trail to Franklin there is the strong sound of the the Green River in spring crashing against sandstone cliffs and over boulders, rushing through narrows and lapping at the small eddies and beaches. The sky becomes crowded with the new leaves of giant Maple, bright green moss paints the old town foundations, and Fiddlehead ferns unfurl their long fronds.
Walking through the old historic Franklin Townsite is like a treasure hunt. Out of the tangle of ferns, salal, vine maple, and Cedar old building foundations reveal themselves. Old pieces of cable and rock filled mine shafts catch the corner of your eye. At the old historic cemetery grave stones mark another time, of people, who pioneered this once bustling coal mining town. Names like Romulas, Standridge, Farro, Johnson, and Hanson mark the gravestones. Immigrants of different European descent. Their descendants, some now scattered to the wind and some still carrying on the lineage locally in the town of Black Diamond and surrounding countryside.
In the spring at the old cemetery reminders of loved ones come in the form of daffodils and purple vinca carefully planted next to family gravestones. Even now sometimes you’ll find fresh cut flowers next to a lonely headstone. This is a community with roots that go long and deep. Even today old timers care for the cemetery and local Black Diamond museum. The old townsite like the river is measured in a different metronome. The town in generations. The river in geologic strata that forms the river banks.
The trail starts at the northern side of the Green River Gorge Resort. For $5 you can park in a field on the western side of the road. From the trail head you pass through a gate from private land to the undeveloped Washington State Parks land. From there the choices are a couple of lefts that lead down to the river in different spots. The first leads down to a steep river edge lined in dark stone. Across the river is an old coal car that still sticks out of the river and a mushroom rock.
The other left, which is one of my favorites, is a local’s swimming whole with a sandstone whale breaching from the deep green of the river. A flat rock is exposed in the late summer is the perfect perch to soak in the long awaited sunshine of a northwest summer.
Pass by those and follow a gravel road up hill to a fork. At the fork is an old black coal car donated by Palmer Coking and Coal.
The right leads to some old foundations. To the left the road becomes a trail heading farther upward to a fenced and grated mine shaft and a wall of sedimentary leaf prints imprinted in pink and orange sandstone. Beyond the mine shaft the trail leads further up past old elevated metal rails that looks like it may have transported little coal cars but actually transported a water line.
After a walk along the edge of the hill you finally arrive at the old cemetery. A small loop trail leads through the old gravestones. If you continue past there to the left you’ll drop down to an old road. Take a left and it leads down to the Black Diamond Springs. From the river you can see the water of three joined springs tumble down a rocky hillside and spill into the river. Cold clear water that supplies the city of Black Diamond with water. A suspension bridge, that is locked, leads to the spring side of the river. The trail pretty much dead ends there. Beyond that are thickets of nettles and native black berry that make bush whacking a painful process.
For a map, directions, and more information visit Outdoor Project Hike Description: https://www.outdoorproject.com/adventures/washington/hikes/franklin-ghost-town-mine-cemetery
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