Scenic USA - Oregon

Sumpter Valley Dredge

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Sumpter Valley Dredge - Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area, Oregon

Photos by Denny Barnes
Denny Barnes Photography

   Appearing much like a Rube Goldberg machine from the early 20th century, this 1250 ton behemoth was used to uncover gold in Sumpter Valley. Built in the early 1900s, the Sumpter Valley Dredge Company chewed up huge sections of eastern Oregon real estate.
   Here in Sumpter, gold was first discovered in 1862, setting the tone of employment for the next century. Although, twice as much gold was mined by the miner's pick, Dredge Bucket - Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area, Oregon the Powder River Gold Dredging Company designed and built three gargantuan gold dredges. Powered by electricity, the conveyor utilizes 65 to 72 one ton buckets, moving 100 acres of earth every year.
   Oregonís Parks and Recreation added the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area to its inventory of parks in 1994. Viewed as an important historic monument, the 75 year old dredge enjoys a rich history. During its 20 years of service, the giant bucket brigade dug up more than 4 million dollars (over 160 million at todayís prices) of gold. Despite leaving an unsightly ridge of tailings that stretches out for miles, gold dredging is part of eastern Oregon's heritage and gold mining history. Plenty of trails are woven throughout the park for guests to learn of Oregon's mining history and enjoy Elkhorn Mountain scenery and wildlife.

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