Since the 1850s, prospectors have mined the mountains and streams of the Skagit River watershed. In search of gold, miners dug deep underground and scoured streambeds. The Ruby Creek watershed, which drains into Ross Lake, is one of these mined regions that has been explored for valuable minerals from its headwaters to its lowest reaches. Despite its remoteness, mining continues in this area.
In 2015, a team of researchers — Brooke Bannerman, Dr. Leo Bodensteiner, Dr. Ruth Sofield, and Ashley Rawhouser — questioned whether these historical and current mining activities were polluting Ruby Creek and its tributaries. By collecting and analyzing stream water for metals and other water quality parameters, these researchers found evidence that mining is affecting these streams. Read more about their work here.