|Exploring the Blue Mountains of
Exploring old gold mines and ghost towns of Eastern Oregon
|Last update: February 18, 2005
|John and I had explored this area of Oregon many times before. But this would be our first fully
documented trip specifically for the website. Despite our many trips before, we would also explore
a few areas that we had never seen. Eastern Oregon is full of history, but the Blue Mountains of
Eastern Oregon is perhaps one of the most rich in gold rush artifacts of any area of the Northwest.
|Day Two - July 19, 2003
|Map of the area
|Fremont Powerhouse and Flume
|After getting up and pack up camp, our first stop would to continue west on Forest Road 10 and explore the old
wooden flume that used to bring water to the Fremont Powerhouse just east of us.
Back in 1908, the owners of the Red Boy mine, located near what is today the intersection of Forest Roads 10 and
13 built a powerhouse for the mine several miles west. From the powerhouse, ran a wooden flume, constructed like
a tube that ran over hills and mountains for about 5 miles to Olive Lake. Water from Olive Lake which was much
higher in elevation than the powerhouse, free fell down the flume to the powerhouse and turned a turbine which in
turn generated power. The Red Boy mine must have a huge operation. Unfortunately almost nothing of the
original mill and mine exist today. But the powerhouse and flume survive in extremely good condition. The
powerhouse went on to power the city of Granite and surrounding area from 1911 until 1967. It's remained sort of a
tourist attraction ever since. A few years ago a larger snowstorm caved in the roof. The Umatilla National Forest
and the Oregon National Guard did a painstakingly wonderful restoration of the powerhouse. The inside and
outside were rebuilt to match exactly what it used to look like. And inside is extremely impressive with all of the
restored and repainted equipment. Unfortunately, we were only able to view it all through the windows.
We drove the length of Forest Road 10 to Olive Lake. The Flume meets up or crosses the road in many sections
and we stopped to view with amazement how much of this very old pipeline still exists. After briefly stopping to
view Olive Lake and the local campground, we turned around and headed back down Forest Road 10 to the Fremont
Powerhouse and ate lunch. From there we continued down Forest Road 10 to the remains of the Red Boy mine.
Today, almost nothing of the old mine or building exists. We did find some remains of a much smaller mill near the
Red Boy mine over the side of the road.
|Our campspot the next
morning, just off Forest
|Stopped along the road to
examine the remains of
the old water flume.
|This wooden flume was almost 100 years old, but survives
to this day almost completely intact. Several sections were
removed allow for roads to be built through the area. Note
a junction box located on the pipeline in the above picture.
|A 3D view of the area
and the pipeline. Again,
a vast majority of the
pipeline still exists,
although it's bone dry
|Pictures of varies sections of cut flume. These were almost always cut to make way for a
road. The cut flume allows a great view of the cross section to see how it was put together
using a tough and groove method. Note how metal clamps were used to hold the wood
together. Remember this is 5 miles of pipe. How many clamps do you think it took?
|Olive Lake. This was the
source of the water that
powered the turbine at the
Today a rather large
campground is near this
|The powerhouse as it looks today. Note the extremely good condition of the building
and internal equipment. It was a restoration that befitted a major tourist attraction. It's
too bad that it's located in such a remote area and is visited by only a few thousand
people each year.
|Views of the Fremont Powerhouse undergoing restoration in the late 1990s. The roof
collasped in 1993. The Oregon National Guard and the Umatilla National Forest
performed the restoration. Pictures by Patricia Niel of Umatilla County taken in 1998.
|This how much of the
was transported to the
new powerhouse back in
|The Red Boy mine is near the junction of Forest Roads 10
and 13. Although one of the largest operations around in
1908, today, barely a clue of it's existence remains. On
the north side of FR 10 are these concrete and rock
remains of the giant mill. Even the tunnels are long
|The remains of an
unnamed mill near the
Red Boy mine just off of
Forest Road 10.
|Map of the area
|Maiden's Dream Mine
|We headed east on Forest Road 73 (hwy 220) to the eastern areas of the Blue Mountains, near Sumpter.
About one mile west of McCully Forks campground we turn off to explore the Maiden's Dream mine. The road to
Maiden's dream turned from good to almost 4-wheel drive required. The water bars on the old road required a
very high clearance 4WD, which was little problem for us. The suspension got a good work out, flexing over the
water bars. Soon the road even turned even more narrow and rocky. We picked out this mine to explore because
it was all by itself and the USGS maps indicated a building remained on the site.
Once we arrived we noted that logging had occurred up here perhaps as recently as 10 years ago. The building we
were expecting was nowhere in site. In fact even the remains were all but gone. We did find the mineshaft and the
adit was open, but it was far too dangerous to explore inside. We did notice several piles of mostly buried bent up
railroad tracks, but not much else.
|Driving the road to the Maiden's Dream mine we noticed evidence of logging in the area over the last 10 or 15 years.
The road was riddled with large water bars.
|The only remains of the Maiden's Dream mine is this still
open adit. Unfortunately too dangerous to explore.
Railroad tracks did litter the area and appeared to be
buried in piles of dirt.
|Map of the area
|Cracker Creek Mining District
|From the Maiden's Dream we headed back down to hwy 220 to the town of Sumpter. Sumpter is the largest town in
the area. It was the main source of supplies and equipment for the miners during the glory years. The railroad ran
through the town for many decades and a major dredging operation that worked for several decades was based out
of this town. Today is survives almost exclusively on tourism. The original Sumpter railroad is gone, but some of
the tracks have been re-laid and a very cool tourist steam railroad offers rides to and from the town. The last
remaining gold dredge sits partly restored on display for the public to explore as well as other smaller mining
Prior to entering Sumpter, we turned north and headed up to the Cracker Creek mining district and the ghost town
of Bourne. We noticed that just north of Sumpter, there were several occupied claims and modern mining
equipment. We also found the remains of one of several large dredges that many years ago destroyed the Cracker
Creek. About 1 mile north of Sumpter the remains of the dredge bow lie in a pool of water where it died many
|The remains one of the
dredges of Cracker Creek.
We believe this is the
Sumpter Dredge # 2.
|The remains of a miner's
house located near
|About 1 mile south of Bourne we noticed a very large mining operation on the hillside next to the road. The
operation was huge, but our USGS maps indicating nothing on that hillside. Not even a clue of a building or tunnel.
The USGS maps of this area date from 1981 to 1984. The left the only possibility that this mine postdates the
maps. Once we arrived at the main adit, we soon discovered this was indeed a more modern operation, although
completely abandoned. We had no idea what the mine's name was and later could find no information it, but it
appears to be at least 15 to 20 years old, based on the condition of the equipment. We suspect the mine dates to
perhaps the early to mid 1980s. The main adit was huge by any standard. The largest we've seen of any abandoned
mine. The ore cart tracks were still intact, complete with rail switches, but these were very large tracks indicating
that very large ore carts and equipment was used. The adit was blocked by a hastily made gate, but we could
clearly see that the mine was in very good condition and were it open, would be safe to explore. We would have
loved to see how far back it went and what other equipment might remain inside. We suspect it goes back many
thousands of feet or even several miles. If anyone has further information on this mine, please let me know.
|Driving up to the mine's
|The mine dump chute
Here ore cart from the
adit dump ore down this
chute, where trucks likely
picked it up at the bottom.
|You can see the much of the rail tracks survive in good
conditions. Note how these are a much larger gage track
than normally found at mines.
|The main adit is huge by any standard. Note the very
secure bracing. This mine would likely present little
danger to explore, but it was blocked off with a gate.
The pipe on the ceiling likely provided ventelation. I'm
sure this mine goes back many thousands of feet.
|Update (July 1, 2004): Jerry J. Smith emailed and said that regarding this mine, Peter Jeavne is the currently owner. His
father Charles was the previous owner. The company that mined it was called Simplot Corp. and they actually mined it about
30-40 years ago. Further back than I had thought. Thanks for the info, Jerry!
|Once we arrived in the ghost town of Bourne, we found that it was indeed a ghost own. Many of the homes were
long abandoned and in various states of disrepair. Bourne was a major town site back in the mining glory days.
Today, only a few cabins are occupied part time during the year. Further up the road is the E&E mine. The E&E
(Eureka and Excelsior) was an extremely large mine that had a very large mill. Today, the mill is gone. Burned
down many years ago, but what remains is still very interesting. A long ore cart tram that dates back to the hey
day of the mine, the 1900, is still very evident today. It was an amazing site for any one interested in old mine
railroads as I am. The tram used to extend from the mill to several mine sites thousands of feet away. Today, a
large section of that tram near the old mill is missing. But, we followed the mine ore cart railroad for several
hundred yards until it reached one of the old mines. Unfortunately that mine was collapsed. Near the mine was an
old building that appeared to contain a milling operation, but is empty today. There were few remains on the site,
but we did find a very interesting mine shaft nearby. This shaft was driven hundreds of feet straight down, but
today it's filled water. However, it's still perhaps 50 feet to the water level. A very dangerous shaft, but protected
with a grate. The building mentioned before and this mineshaft appeared to be a more modern operation. Perhaps
dating to the 1950s or 1960s.
|The ghosttown of Bourne. Today, most of the few buildings that remain are abandoned. But in the late 1800s and early
1900s, this was the main town for the very large E&E and surrounding mines.
|The E&E mill as it looked in 1900.
Note the old stone foundation in
this picture and then on the picture
on the right taken by us. Also note
the covered tram behind the mill.
This is the same tram you see below.
|These next 8 pictures are of us walking down the remainder of the track away from the
direction of the old mill to the mineshafts. This entire track was once covered with
wooden tunnels. Some of which are still evident today.
|This is the end of the tram
that once continued on to
the E&E mill. At some
point, the track from here
to the mill was removed
and this area was turned
into the ore dump.
Perhaps after the mill
|Here you see the last half of the old ore cart tram before it dies out near the collasped mine. This tram was built in
the late 1800s. It's amazing that it survives today at all.
|A large building at the
end of the ore cart tram.
This building appeared
to house mill equipment
at some point and was
perhaps last used in the
1950s or 1960s. Today it
is empty and abandoned.
|A large vertical shaft near the empty building pictured to the left. This was actually
two shafts side by side. One shaft was for the miners to climb down. The other
shaft appeared to be for hauling ore out of the mine. Today the mine is filled with
water up to about down about 50 feet from the surface.
|From the E&E mine we headed south on Cracker Creek road the way we came in. It was hot and dusty, as it always
is the summer here. We found a small swimming hole in Cracker Creek and took a long much needed swim break.
From there we headed south to Hanover, a town site that no longer exists today. From Hanover we headed west,
then north to the Golconda mine. We had visited this mine on a previous trip, but it was late on our final day and
raining, so we barely paid a visit. Today, we were able to better explore the area. Little is known of the history of
the Golconda, but it likely dates to the late 1800s just like all the other mines of the area. The mill was
unfortunately collapsed in a large pile of shattered wood. We found several adits that were collapsed, and we did
locate the remains of a vertical shaft and a very interesting head tower, located above the mill amongst some
extremely large tailings piles. We noticed that the area appeared to have been logged with in the last 15 to 20
years and logging debris was piled up nearby and roads were cut into the area that did not appear to be part of the
old mining operations.
|The remains of the
Golconda mine mill. This
was a stamp mill as evident
by the large timbers that
we noticed used to house
|An ore dump chute located
on one of the very large
tailings piles at the
Golconda mine site.
|This was the headtower we found over a
vertical shaft that was filled with water. This
head tower is extremely old, perhaps 100
years. That it stands today is amazing. Note
the contraption that was used to lower miners
into the shaft.
|Turning around at the Golconda mine. Had to include a few pictures of the truck. This is the
rig that allows us to visit and explore so many of these amazing sites.
|One of the last stops of the day would be the Columbia mine. This was one of the largest and indeed strangest
mines we've ever seen. Dating to the late 1800s and early 1900s, there once stood here one of the largest mining
operations in the area. Much of the rich ore on this mountainside reached to the surface. So the mining operation
dug very long tunnels under the mountain and then blasted out the ore all the way up to the surface, creating very
large and extremely dangerous pits. This was perhaps the most dangerous mine we've ever explored. Sign were
strewn about warning that the area was unsafe and the ground could collapse at any place. We still explored, but
exercised the most extreme caution.
|The Columbia mine area
|Just a few of the many dangerous mine shafts that litter the very steep mountainside where the Columbia mine buildings used to
stand. This is probably one of the most dangerous mines we've ever seen. One wrong step you could fall hundreds of feet. Worse
yet, the ground could easily collasp form under you. We don't recommend visiting this mine area at all. We did find a few
collasped buildings and some misc. equipment, but not much else.
|We finished exploring the Columbia mine area and found little remains compared to the very large operation that
used to exist about 100 years ago. It was getting late, so we after we left this site, we began to search for a place
to camp for the night. We attempted to drive up a very rough road to explore the Argonaut mine. Unfortunately,
the road was washed out at a creek and permanently blocked. We camped nearby for the night.
|Copyright © 2004 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
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|The old E&E mill as it looks today. Only the old rock foundation and few
burnt pieces of wood remain.
|The roads around the Columbia mine were a bit rough, but nothing that required