Cape Gazette

C2C: Gold mining country along the Oregon Trail

By Dennis Forney | Jun 01, 2013
During the 1860s, it's estimated miners took $12 million worth of gold out of the Powder River and nearby.  This display in Sumpter - named for Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, provides an exaggerated view of what the miners were after.

BAKER CITY, OREGON — DAY 18 - We rolled into town at about 5 p.m. on Friday.  Biggest town we've seen for a while.  Mountains nearby, lots of trails, snowmobiling, horseback riding.  There's also a prison in town.  Man at the desk of the motel said Baker City is known for retirement, recreation and rehabilitation. Here at the Bridge Street Inn - $45 including breakfast and the Powder River rushing by - the walls are festooned with photographs of the making of Paint Your Wagon in 1969.  Young Lee Marvin, younger Clint Eastwood, and the beautiful and blonde Jean Dorothy Seberg in the leading lady role.  One of the photos shows Lee Marvin singing along with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

We crossed two passes yesterday, made 60 miles, stopped in Sumpter for lunch and to check out a gold dredge.  At the Elkhorn Saloon we found a menu offering 42 different hamburgers.  (They love to put a pink sauce on their burgers out here - kind of like Thousand Island.) I was hungry but not hungry enough to try the George Washington Burger - with cherry pie filling and sour cream. You try and let me know.

We started yesterday at Bates State Park.  Crystal clear all day.  Halleleuia! Crawled out of the tent to find a heavy frost covering bikes and table.

Total ascent yesterday, 3,837 feet. Headed today for the Snake River Canyon and the town of Richland.

Here are some photos from yesterday. Hope you're having a nice weekend.

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This dredge, the size of a small mansion, worked in the Powder River and created its own nine-foot deep pool as it made its way through the rocky bottom.  It dredged up buckets of river bottom, conveyered them inside, and processed them using mercury to separate out the gold before leaving tailings behind in its wake. A noisy operation.  "All them men who worked in the dredge were deaf," the man at the Elkhorn told me.  "They knew nothing back then about ear protection."
This gives you a sense of the buckets on the head of the dredge.
This is a river bottom where the dredge worked.  In its history it dredged up approximately 2,500 acres.  Look carefully and you can see some of the tailing piles left behind by this brontosaurus-like marvel of gold lust-fired engineering.
This shows the reddish color of the bark of the Ponderosa pines so prevalent in this part of the world.  The bark is thick and designed by nature to be resistant to low intensity fires.
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