Mill D South Fork or Cardiff Fork


View of Superior Peak from the Reed & Benson mine at 10,166' above sea level in South Fork. c.2005
Copyright 2005 Don Winegar - Tintic Images   (Click image to see larger view.)

Brief history

  Mill D South Fork or Cardiff Fork (it is known by both) in Big Cottonwood Canyon is best known today for the popular and well traveled trail to Donut Falls. While that is a great destination hike, there is much more to know and explore, than a short hike and a waterfall.
Few people know the real history, the mining history of this canyon. The early history and the latter. Famous in the early days for the Reed & Benson, Sampson, Kessler, and Carbonate. Equally famous in the later period for the riches of the Cardiff.
It was the Reed & Benson owners that would build a state-of-the-art gravity tramway in the 1870's, only to have it bring death and then burn to ashes. Half a century later, owners of the Cardiff would discover a bonanza lode and almost single handedly start a second mining boom in the Big Cottonwood district.
Initial claims would be filed in the 1870's, worked, and riches made. The boom would die down, claims consolidated into mining companies, then worked again. Below is a map of the consolidated properties and the named companies working those claims in the South Fork area as they stood in 1913. 


Getting there

From the intersection of Big Cottonwood Canyon Road and Wasatch Blvd. at the mouth of the Canyon, travel east up the canyon to Renyolds Flat. Turn right on the South Fork road and drive beyond the campground and the private cabins to the trailhead parking area.
While you can hike the well marked Donut Falls trail and get to the same place, hiking the old road is just as pleasant a walk and usually much less crowded. Either way, you will hike to a point where the two trails com back together. Once there, the left fork takes you down into the gulch and the falls. The right fork takes you up the canyon and into the heart of the historic mining areas.
NOTE: Hiking in South Fork in recent years has caused a great deal of controversy, as private land owners who still hold property rights and patented land, are wishing to limit the amount of "off trail" access in certain areas, without interfering with traditional hiking paths. They do not do this because they want to completely stop access in the upper canyon, just the opposite, they want access, but not destruction. Those who come to enjoy and appreciate what once was are welcomed. Those who come to tear down and vandalize, they would just as soon you stay home.
It is a battle over private rights vs. public access, Forest Service and the government vs. the legal property owner. It has been battled in the courts, and likely will be again, but the best advice is be respectful.  LEAVE THINGS AS YOU FIND THEM!


What remains

Very few structures remain standing in this part of Big Cottonwood Canyon. Remnants of structures and bits of machinery can be found all about the area though.