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About The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current | View Entire Issue (July 31, 2019)
Blue Mountain Eagle
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
Eagle photos/Richard Hanners
Gold dredges in the Powder River Vally removed about 128,570 troy ounces of gold. The last dredge is still intact at a state park in Sumpter.
Sumpter Valley Dredge: a monument to area mining
Machines pulled $180 million
in gold from Powder River
Valley at today’s prices
By Richard Hanners
Blue Mountain Eagle
ich gold diggings in the Elkhorn
Mountains of Eastern Oregon drew
5,000 residents to the town of Sumpter
in the early 1900s. At its height, Sumpter
claimed plank sidewalks, seven hotels, 16
saloons, three newspapers, two churches,
an opera house and a red light district.
A fire in 1917 burned much of the city.
Today, about 175 people call Sumpter
home, but the population booms during
flea market events held on Memorial Day,
Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends.
The year-round daily attraction in
Sumpter is the gold dredge that recovered
about 128,570 troy ounces from the Pow-
der River Valley, worth about $180 mil-
lion at current prices. The Sumpter Val-
ley Dredge State Heritage Area covers 93
acres and sees more than 100,000 visitors
Citywide flea markets are set up across Sumpter for the Memorial Day, Fourth of July and
Labor Day weekends.
The last of three dredges that traveled
about 8 miles across the valley starting in
1913, Sumpter No. 3 was constructed in
1935 from pieces of the second dredge,
which had sat idle for a decade. Sumpter
No. 3 operated until 1954.
The dredge was added to the National
Register of Historic Places in 1971. Res-
toration work began in 1995, and the state
acquired the site and associated equipment
and buildings for a park after that.
The principle of dredge mining is effi-
ciency gained through volume, but it
With 72 one-ton buckets digging at 20
buckets per minute, gold dredges traveled
about 8 miles across the Powder River Valley.
cost more to run Sumpter No. 3 than the
gold could pay for, and the company was
$100,000 in debt when it shut down.
It took three men to operate the machin-
ery and another 17 for maintenance, book-
See Dredge, PageC5
Full Bar • Burgers • Pizza • Broasted Chicken
• Kid Friendly Until 8 p.m.
Bates State Park
CLYDE HOLLIDAY STATE PARK
31 sites, toilets, water,
tent/RV sites, electric
MT. VERNON, OREGON
2 miles East of Mt. Vernon