Murder and dilapidated cabins on Briggs Creek Trail
Zach Urness/Daily Courier

This broken down miner's cabin is located on Briggs Creek Trail.

The Briggs Creek Trail takes hikers through a rich, forested valley full of spooky history, abandon mines and dilapidated cabins. It’s a fun and interesting place to spend the night.

Click here for a photo gallery of the Briggs Valley area.

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By Zach Urness of the Daily Courier

The Briggs Creek Trail is the perfect setting for a good ghost story.

The trail begins at the site of a busted mining boomtown — one with a violent history — continues past the remnants of two hydraulic mines, weaves through an old-growth forest of gothic twisting pine trees, and eventually leads to the dark ruins of an abandon miner’s cabin.

The Briggs Creek Trail — named for a packer named George E. Briggs who supplied early miners — is located southwest of Merlin, Ore. in the Wild Rivers Ranger District of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

The trailhead is at Sam Brown campground, which once was the sight of the gold mining boomtown named Briggs. During its heyday, Briggs featured a hotel, bars and even a brothel.

The campsite gets its name from a grave site near the picnic area with a headstone marked “Sam Brown.” Forest-service signs don’t provide much information, but legend has it that Sam Brown was one of the first black men to settle in Southern Oregon.

Brown supposedly worked as barkeeper in the town until he ran into trouble one day and was shot for “messing with miners’ wives.”

I can’t imagine it was the miners who laid Sam Brown to rest in his grave site. I like to think it was the act of some love-struck miner’s wife who lugged a stone out in the moonlight to Sam’s final resting place and wrote out his name as epitaph.

The trail exits this bloody boomtown and sets out through a small golden meadow. After less than half a mile, the trail is interrupted by the first of many creek crossings.

The trail follows the river closely the entire trip. Douglas firs with thick trunks stand upon the edges of the stream like giant sentinels, and I walked past tiny silver waterfalls running down moss-covered rocks.

I passed the Elkhorn mine after about two miles. There’s a campsite here littered with rusty metal equipment including a reddish-brown wheelbarrow, but not much else.

After a few more stream crossings and roughly half a mile, the Briggs Creek ford brings the path to an abrupt halt.

The crossing is about 35 to 40 feet wide during the spring. The water is knee-deep, moves swiftly and feels colder than newly melted ice.

The obvious choice is to switch your boots for sandals and ford the river. But about 20 feet to the right of the trail there is a pine tree laying across the river like an impromptu bridge.

In the interest of keeping my feet dry, I decided to test this tightrope crossing. There’s really no stress-free way to traverse this balance beam of a tree with a 50-pound pack on one’s back — still, the quasi-bridge was surprisingly stable and my balancing act passed without, you know, falling 15 feet into freezing cold water.

The trail climbs sharply on the opposite shore above the creek bed, and after about .4 of a mile, looks out across an abandon flume ditch created by the Courier mine.

After 4.3 miles along the trail, the rotting remains of the Courier Mine Historic Cabin Site comes into view through the timber.

I found a little trail leading to the front of the dark cabin to investigate.

There’s a black plastic tarp slung over the cabin’s roof, and the warped brown walls slump slightly to the right like a wet cardboard box.

Inside, the small glass windows allow streams of dusty sunshine to glint though. There’s a wooden bed in the back corner with a dirty yellow mattress lying on top.

There’s a shelf holding a frying pan and a silver tin of lighter fluid at the foot of the bed. The white porcelain sink is filled with sticks and dead leaves, and there’s a few gnarled pipes below.

About 100 feet away from the cabin I made camp under a few big leaf maples on flat ground near the creek bank. As purple twilight became night, I enjoyed a small campfire and ate a dinner of beef stew and canned peaches.

I could see the dark outline of the cabin hanging nearby as I collected firewood. And in the dark shadow of the old abandon cabin, with the wind sweeping gusts off the creek and the campfire emitting a smoky mist, it occurred to me that this really is a perfect setting for a ghost story.

You know, the one about the evil, haunted cabin and the woefully ignorant sports writer...

NOTES: Sam Brown Campground will be open to the public by Memorial Day Weekend and costs $5 a night. ... Toilets are available with two covered group picnic shelters and an amphitheater. ... The Briggs Creek Trail continues past the cabin, away from another ford and stops at Forest Service road 4105-152.


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