The Housum Placer includes approximately 3 miles of mainstem Ninemile Creek and is located in the upper Ninemile Creek watershed from near the confluence with Big Blue Creek upstream to Beecher Creek. The Housum Placer is located at an elevation of approximately 4,000 feet on Ninemile Creek, approximately 14 miles upstream from its confluence with the Clark Fork River. The Housum Placer is a private, patented mining claim encom-assing approximately 250 acres and owned by five separate landowners. Short reaches of the stream corridor are located on the Lolo National Forest.
Records indicate that a placer gold boom occurred on Ninemile Creek between 1874 and 1877. Mining with dragline dredges, hydraulic hoses and sluicing continued on Ninemile and its tributaries until the late 1940’s, with the principal placer located on mainstem Ninemile Creek three miles upstream from Camp Creek. Several mining towns existed in the upper end of Ninemile Creek during the mining boom and no longer exist.
Historic mining activity on the Housum Placer has significantly altered mainstem Ninemile Creek. Specific problems include piles of mining spoils that range from 12 to 40 feet tall, a lack of floodplain connectivity and excessive erosion. Additionally, large settling ponds dot the landscape and riparian vegetation throughout the site is insufficient to maintain adequate bank stability, provide shade, and filter out sediments and other pollutants from the stream. Nearly three miles of mainstem Ninemile Creek, including the confluence with at least four major tributaries were significantly mined. The valley bottom was essentially turned upside down during the mining process. Remnant dragline dredge ponds dominate the landscape. Subsurface fines were washed away downstream as part of the processing in the 1940s and what remains are large piles of coarse cobble and boulders which have been slow to revegetate in places and confine the stream channel.
Data collection and analysis for Phase I of this project is currently under way. Project partners including TU, the Lolo National Forest, Missoula County and private landowners are working together to analyze existing data, collect pre project monitoring data, and prepare conceptual design plans that will serve as a starting point for this large scale project.