|Exploring the Washington Cascade
Exploring mines, ghost towns, and abandoned railroads.
|June 27-30 2003
|Last Update: February 18, 2005
|For Four days, my friend John and I, using my truck, explored several mining areas of the eastern
Washington Cascades as well as ghost towns, abandoned railroad tunnels, tracks and trestles, and
one fire lookout. This trip was one of the most interesting so far.
|Day Three - June 29, 2003
|Blewett Town Site, Stamp Mill and Mines
|The next morning, we got up, packed up and drove just a few hundred feet down the road to what would have been the
center of the town of Blewett. Today, the highway runs directly through what used to be the center of the town.
Established in the 1860s, the town prospered in the 1890s and early 1900s from the huge mines that ringed the
town. It was named for Edward Blewett of Seattle in 1893 who owned most of the mines in the area at the time.
Today only one building remains, a 20 stamp mill built in the 1890s. The building is not much of a building anymore.
Only the internal timbers and rock walls remain today. The town began to die in the 1930s and by the 1940s was
completely gone. A creek runs next to the highway and was used by the town in the early days. An arrastre made
out of a large boulder was found by the creek. An arrastre is a very early ore crushing device. The fact that this
one was so close to the creek indicates that it may have used water power at one point. This particular arrastre is
extremely primitive and dates to 1850 according to the National Register of Historic places. That's 153 year old!
We drove to the Blewett stamp mill and parked above the mill. In the steep Culver gulch just west and behind the
mill, were numerous very interesting mine sites. But these were blocked by a gate. We would have to hike it or bike
it. We chose the latter. Before embarking on the bike ride, we checked out a few mine shafts that were just south of
the mill. Here we found several open adits and a little bit of relics, but not much else.
|The Blewett Stamp Mill.
Here we were parked
above the mill, but we'd
explore it better later in
|The arrastre cut into a
boulder that we found.
Dates to 1850!
|The Black Jack mines just south of the Blewett stamp
mill. An interesting story about these mines is that the
miners would find pockets of ore and hide them from the
owners of the mine during the day. Then they would
come back at night and steal it. These mines were first
dug in 1890.
|An unknown piece of
equipment near the Black
|The gate at the beginning
of the road behind the
Blewett Stamp Mill.
Behind this gate lies some
very interesting mines.
|After getting the bikes and suiting up we headed up the gulch, past the gate. This is National Forest land and we
were not trespassing. The signs at the gate simply indicated that motorized traffic was not allowed except by permit.
As we would soon find, this road is so steep, you can barely walk up, much less drive up it. And we certainly weren't
riding up most of this road. At least I wasn't. I ended up pushing my bike up the entire 1000 foot in elevation gain we
would make in about 3/4 of a mile. But the return trip went much faster than it otherwise would have gone. More on
Our first stop on the road was the Meteor tunnel. Just past the gate, we found an old building. The mine adit was
buried in brush, but it was very much open. We had a map that showed that this mine had several thousand feet of
workings and was very large. It's a hard rock mine that might be worth exploring, but we didn't have the equipment
or the time and decided to move on.
|The large entrance to
|The pictures never show
how steep anything is.
But there is a reason we
are pushing our bikes.
|The building next to the
|The next stop was to explore a few misc. mines and look for what was reported to be an old suckling mill scattered
down a hill side. After some cross country exploring and hill climbing, we eventually found several open adits,
including an interesting flooded adit. Soon we stumbled upon on the mill remains. I'm not sure what year the mill
dates too, possibly the early 1920s or 1930s. That's the time period of a mill that was located just down the hill.
Nothing remains of that mill today.
|The bobtail mine just
below the mill remains
|The half flooded shaft of the Golden Crown mine, located
just above the old mill site remains.
|A view of the road/trail
several hundred feet
below. Here we are just
above the mill remains.
|The old Suckling mill remains. Note the old engine, and ore chute. I'm not sure how old the engine is or what it was used
for, but it appears to be attached to a car or truck frame.
|The next stop up the very steep road was one of the most interesting mines we've ever visited. The Pole Pick mines
date to the 1870s, but the most recent workings date to the very early 1980s. Around that time, Montana De Oro
Mining company came in and extracted over 1 million dollars worth of gold from the mines. Much of the equipment
was simply abandoned on the tracks where the company left them never to return. We were amazed at the amount of
equipment that was left behind. Then again, the road to the mine was so steep and so rough, that I would be greatly
surprised if such heavy equipment could ever be hauled out. So here it lays where it was abandoned over 20 years
ago. We found two buildings and several hundred feet of ore car track. Much of the track was so over grown or
covered by dirt and tailings that it was hard to find. We found an air compressor that was built in the 1950s, but was
in remarkable shape, except for some flat tires. Next to the air compressor was a diesel tank which fueled the air
compressor's engine and several compressed air holding tanks. What the compressor was used for was evident when
we saw the EIMCO air locomotive, several ore cars and a bunch of air drills. The locomotive, ore cars and a
mucker all appeared to be just strewn about on the property, but after a much closer look we noticed the equipment
was still sitting on the ore car tracks where it was left behind. The tracks just aren't visible in some areas as they are
covered by dirt and tailings. The mine tunnel was collapsed and grown over. In fact we could hard find the old
entrance. But we did find a large stack of air powered drills, drill bits, extensions and other equipment, near the old
|Just below the Pole Pick
mine was a stack of used
ore car rail track.
|Our first view of the Pole
Pick mine area and
|The air compressor used
to run the locomotive and
air tools. Built in the
1950s, it was last used
about 20 years ago.
|Sections of ore car track
laid over the tailings pile.
Note the ore car that is
missing it's wheels.
|The EIMCO Air Locomotive 401. I'm not sure when this locomotive was built, but I've seen pictures of similar ones running
in mines from the 1950s and 1960s. It's hard to tell, but the locomotive is actually sitting on tracks. The operator filled the
tank which fed an air vein engine which powered four drive wheels via chains. The tank had a maximum pressure of about
120 psi. The throttle was a spring operated lever (my left hand) that could be moved forward or backward. The brake lever
(my right hand) operated a single brake shoe on one of the four wheels. A level just in front of the throttle appears to be a
gear shifter with a hi and low gear. The operator sat in a position where he was always facing the mine entrance no matter
which direction the locomotive was going. That way he would not be trapped should the locomotive fail as the tunnels were
usually dug just big enough to clear the locomotive itself. The seating position was less than comfortable.
|This is a mucker and the
last equipment to be
pulled out of the mine,
based on it's final resting
place. This piece of
equipment was used to
clean out the mine floor.
|While the tracks aren't
visible, you can see the
locomotive and ore cars in
line with each other as
they sit on the buried
tracks where they were left
over 20 years ago.
|Next to the collapsed adit
were these air drills and
tools. They are now just
rusting away, almost
concealed by overgrowth.
|An intact ore car that was
pushed or fell over the
edge of the tailings pile.
|Just above the Pole Pick mines was the Fackler concentrator mill. It's unknown when this mill was first built, but it
was reported to have been used by the Fackler family in the 1940s. There is heavy equipment on three different
levels inside the mill. The Montana De Oro company, which was mining the Pole Pick in the early 1980s
reconditioned the mill and used it during that time. It has since been falling into a major state of disrepair and is
about to fall down. The area is also under private ownership, probably as a patented mine claim and entrance is
forbidden. We stayed just long enough to snap a few pictures.
|An old engine powered air
compressor, similar to the
one at the Pole Pick
mine, but is in much
|Another engine of some
sort and another stack of
ore car rail track just
outside of the Fackler
|The number 8 Adit. The
tunnel, located just below
the Fackler mill is
reported to have failed to
strike any ore and is
|The Fackler mill, built sometime during or before the 1940s by the Fackler family. It was reconditioned in the 1980s to
mill ore from the Pole Pick mine below. The mill was in very bad shape, but the little tramway and ore car was an
extremely interesting and rare site. Note another mucker on the property. Note how it's sitting on rail tracks. The
nearby adit was boarded up and there was much old equipment and an old camper on the site. It appeared someone
was doing some work up here fairly recently. This is private property.
|In the 1890s and perhaps even earlier, a 4000 foot long Hallidie Aerial Tramway ran down Culver gulch from the
upper mines directly to the Blewett mill below. The tramway consisted of one 12,000 foot long, one inch thick cable
that weighed over 6 tons and carried about 250lbs of ore in sacks that were attached to iron hooks that were spaced
about 120 feet apart. Later, self dumping ore buckets were used. Today, the only evidence of the tramway is
several hundred or thousand feet of the original cable, a collapsed tram tower and one final standing tram tower.
Here you see the pictures of the final standing tram tower. Erected over 110 years ago, it still resists heavy snow
and weather and defys the odds. It was an amazing site.
|The last standing aerial tram tower of perhaps dozens that were built up
Culver gulch in the 1880s or 1890s to supply buckets of ore to the Blewett
mill below. Just below this tram was the remains of a collapsed tram tower
and some cable, but no other tram remains were found. Last year, I saw
what appeared to be the remains of the tram tower and wheel at the mill.
|After reaching the tram site about 1000 feet above the Blewett mill we decided to call it a day and head back down.
What took us hours to hike and bike up, would only take us minutes to bike down. The road was extremely steep,
very rutted and very rocky. Not the least bit safe. John, the avid bike rider, would effortlessly ride down the road
at deadly speeds. Me on the other hand, used the brakes...a lot. My bike is equipment with front and rear hydraulic
disk brakes. They were proved invaluable. Every few hundred feet of elevation drop, I would stop, and allow the
brakes to cool. At one point, john touched the front brake disk with his gloved hand and it immediately melted the
glove. A few drops of water touching the disk instantly vaporized into steam. We made it back to the truck safely
after a few close calls and near wrecks.
Back at the truck, we stopped to examine the Blewett mill a little more closely. This mill is easy to reach from the
highway, but not easily visible. Nonetheless, it is visited almost daily and even since I first discovered it last year, it
has seen vandalism. A tram wheel that survived over 100 years at the site and that I saw last year, was apparently
stolen since as it is now missing and the timbers that held it in place were destroyed. Why people just won't just
leave things be for others to enjoy is beyond me.
The mill existed as of the early 1890s, although I'm not real clear on when it was first built. It was a 20 stamp mill,
powered by two boilers that were cord wood fed. The boilers powered a 50 h.p. Corliss steam engine. A 500 foot long
flume brought water from a creek above. Sections of this flume are still evident today but strewn about the area.
The foundation consisted of two hand laid rock walls which are still present and in surprisingly good condition today.
The stamp foundation timbers were extremely large and it's no surprise they still stand today, although they are now
badly rotten. I've seen a photo of the mill dated in the 1960s and it looks very similar to what it does today. This
leads me to believe that the mill was actually purposely disassembled, probably in the 1940s, rather than collapsed
over time and the remains we see today were simply left behind.
|At first we assumed this was
one of the two original
boilers for the mill, but a
closer look reveals this may
be some sort of tank instead,
perhaps a pressurized air
|The Blewett stamp mill. All that is left today is the rock wall foundations and the largest
center timbers used to hold the stamps. Note the 4 different sections of wood with 5 notches
cut into them. We assume this held the stamp rods in place.
|Pictures of the tram wheel and tower that I found at the mill
site in the summer of 2002. The wheel is now gone. The
tram tower timbers appeared to have been split open with a
crowbar or some other tool so the wheel could be taken out.
Committing theft on historic public property sites is a Federal
Crime and doesn't leave anything for the rest of us to see.
Luckily I snapped these pictures when I did.
|The town of Blewett as it
appeared in the late 1890s.
The large building on the
right is the Blewett stamp
mill of which the remains
you see in the pictures above.
|The ultimate mountain tourist town. Somebody got it right when they figured out a way for this town to make money
after it almost died in the 1960s. Today it models itself as a Bavarian mountain town and it's one heck of a tourist
trap. But the scenery is worth the visit. As you can see from the pictures, most of the businesses and even the
private homes are built in such a way as to keep with the theme. You don't see the main part of town in these
pictures which is quite impressive. We only drove through to get food and gas and didn't have time to take pictures
of all the little shops and streets. After all, we had mines, ghost towns and railroads to see. We left the town behind
for all the little rich folks from Seattle to enjoy.
|These views don't quite do the town justice. The shops of main street and the city park are all completely built in Bavarian
style. Even the gas station keeps with the theme. But you at least get the idea of what the surrounding mountains are like.
The scenery is impressive.
|One interesting piece of railroad history on the
north end of town is this collapsed railroad trestle
over Chumstick creek. This was a spur line that ran
off of the main Great Northern line (BNSF) to the
north end of town and connected to a mill in town.
The mill and probably the railroad spur was
abandoned in the 1920s. The bridge appears to
have burned down some time ago.
|After we left Leavenworth we drove up Highway 2, up the Tumwater canyon. This offered some spectacular views of
the raging white waters of the Wenatchee River. We found a camp site about 15 miles outside of town and just a few
miles from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area. The next day would be our last. We had seen all the mines we could
expect today. In the morning we would begin our exploration of some vast railroad history of central Washington
and make our way home.
|Copyright © 2003 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
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