A hundred years ago, this land was used to supply water and power rather than recreation. The Dayton Reservoir used to supply water to the town of Dayton, and the Richland and Dixon Slope Mines were dug for coal.
The Richland Mine entrance to the right of the trail is hard to miss. Although it’s tempting to go inside, abandoned mines are notoriously unsafe, and this one is filled with water a short way in.
The Dixon Slope Mine entrance is off the trail a short distance. Nearby Nelson Mine, on private property, was also owned by the Dayton Coal & Iron Company.
The heyday of coal mining in the area occurred in the 1880s and 1890s. The Nelson Mine in particular was a dangerous site—an 1889 gas explosion killed 4 men; another in 1895 killed 28; and yet another in 1902 killed 16.
The Dixon Slope Mine never actually struck coal. The newest of the three mines, it was dug under Richland Creek to access the coal seam that the Nelson Mine had found before being flooded. However, in 1913 the company went into bankruptcy. It turns out the Dixon Slope Mine was only 20 feet away from the coal seam. The coal and iron company also produced coke here for use in making iron.
From trailhead parking, you can walk south along the creek to the long lines of coke ovens; if not cleared recently, they may be overgrown. Recently, archeological work has been done in the area to better understand its history and to possibly apply to have the site added to the National Register of Historic Places.