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Dredging up the past in Sumpter……

Fall 2021

A - Recently we decided to concentrate on the John Day area of Oregon when we got a chance for a weekend away from our current base in the Riverside RV park in Boise. As is my wont I went to my binders of cool ideas and there I found an article about the Sumpter Gold Dredge Historical Site. This was another place I was sure was just for Jim yet as soon as I saw this massive structure I was delighted we came. History is always a draw for me but even more exciting were the shapes, the colors on a cool rainy day, the contrast between rocks and wildflowers and man made metal. If we hadn’t been wrangling the dogs there as well I would have set up and painted but I have some great ideas for future art from the day.

We were the only visitors there on this overcast, rainy day - just the way we like it!- and much of the inside of the dredge is open to stroll through. People have thrown coins on the submerged machinery in the time honored way of good luck seekers. The yard around has a collection of other metal tools etc and there are several paths to walk through the site.

RH - I wasn’t expecting much when we went to Sumpter. I figured it would be just another small town. I started to suspect differently when we came down the hill towards the river. There were huge tailing piles where the river was dredged and it wasn’t in just one location. We turned to go to the state historic site where the dredge was located and it was huge. The dredge was massive and and impressive even in it’s state of disrepair. It was easy to see how they dredged the entire river.

A - The walk among the dredged rock piles was amazing and eye opening. I must admit to being appalled at how a beautiful creek had been scooped and scraped in search of that glittery gold. However nature had risen to the task in the years since and the land was a lovely and strange amalgam of acres of discarded rock and cattails and flowers, trees and the still winding creek. There was no one else there on this somewhat rainy day.

Back at the ranger station they loaned us pans and we enjoyed trying our luck. Although we spotted several glitters it turned out to be fools gold but the real treasure was to muck about in a creek like in childhood. At one point the dogs stuck their snouts in a hole in the bank and we heard a distinct animal growl. Fortunately we pulled them away before we encountered whatever they’d disturbed- a beaver?, Badger?

RH - The ranger at the site was super nice and gave me a pan for some gold prospecting and said the dogs could be off leash down the river. Just walking the tailings piles was an adventure and though it was raining and I didn’t find any gold the dogs and I had a blast looking. It was a great little site to check out if you are interested in mining or just checking out rocks.

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