May 22, 2020 T he C olumbia P ress 5 Oregon’s Chinese focus of award-winning heritage project The Columbia Press and news services Emigrants from China were an essential part of rail ex- pansion and other large pub- lic works projects in the Unit- ed States during the 1800s. The role of Chinese Orego- nians in the state’s history is at the forefront of an archae- ology project underway in the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. Buck Rock Tunnel, high in the mountains on Bureau of Land Management land, is being excavated by students from Southern Oregon Uni- versity under the supervision of BLM Archaeologist Lisa Rice. Rice has worked for years to increase public access to the rail tunnel – a project aban- doned before completion – as well as awareness of the Chi- nese laborers who built it. Rice, in partnership with Chelsea Rose of SOU, has hosted summer field schools for archaeology students. The immersive programs provide field experience excavating and preserving the tunnel and associated history. The site features a trailhead and kiosk with plans for interpre- tive signs that help connect visitors with the past. The tunnel is one of several parts of the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. In April, the project was recognized with a 2020 Oregon Heritage Excellence Award. Renova- tion of the Astoria YMCA, un- related to the diaspora proj- ect, also earned an award last month. Contracted Chinese labor- ers began excavation of the Buck Rock Tunnel in August 1883. Anti-Chinese sentiment be- gan to grow and the federal Chinese Exclusion Act be- came law, restricting Chinese laborers from entering the to the past. Building upon work by BLM and university archae- ologists, last summer’s field schools have uncovered clues about the Chinese laborers who built the tunnel, the era they lived in, and their links Above: A student holds an old whiskey bottle found last year. Top right: How Black Rock Tunnel looks today. Right: Chinese laborers working on the O&C line in 1880. United States. Work on Buck Rock ended in February 1884 when the Oregon & California Railroad Company exhausted its cap- ital. The rail line ultimately was finished with much fanfare in December 1887, but along a different route. Long since abandoned, the 1,750-foot Buck Rock Tunnel was rediscovered in 1966 by Mark Lawrence, a BLM for- ester. In 2014, the federal government purchased the surrounding land and added it to the BLM-administered Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. After acquiring the prop- erty, BLM began studying the tunnel and quickly rec- ognized its historical impor- tance. Today, 135 years after con- struction ceased, Buck Rock Tunnel functions as a portal t o leArn More More photos and the story of the Buck Rock Tunnel can be found at facebook.com/ notes/blm-oregon-wash- ington/buck-rock-tun- nel-portal-to-the- past/2617197001635416. to other sites within the Chi- nese diaspora in Oregon. Informational signs and a gravel parking lot now wel- come visitors at the trailhead for the 4.5-mile trek to the tunnel. From the parking lot, a steep climb along a logging road through a canopy of oaks – and, as the elevation increases, conifers – offers cross-canyon glimpses of the I-5 corridor and the rail line on the course it ultimately took.