Dredging Up the PastA Brief History of Dredging in the Sumpter Valley
Dredging in the Sumpter Valley
What Is a Dredge?
In Late 1912,
Powered by an electric motor, the bucket line boasted 65 nine cubic foot dredging buckets which dug at a rate of 21 buckets per minute or seven cubic yards of material per minute. The buckets brought the gold-laden earth up to the top of the dredge where it dumped into a hopper.
After passing through the trommel, the gold bearing sand was flushed over a series of sluice boxes lined with slats called riffles where the gold and other heavy material settled and were trapped while the remaining lighter material was deposited out the back of the dredge.
The No. 2 Dredge spent its life working its way north, up the McCully Fork and Cracker Creek towards the town of Bourne. Both dredges operated simultaneously until 1923 when the Powder River Dredging Company shut down and dismantled the No. 2 Dredge shipping it all but the hull to Central Washington where it was rebuilt and renamed the Liberty Dredge.
The Valley Was Quiet
for over a decade before dredging was active again. In 1934, influenced when President Franklin D. Roosevelt raised the price of gold from $20.00 to $35.00 an ounce, the Sumpter Valley Dredging Company began work to create a new and improved gold dredge.
This dredge, a Yuba style dredge, had several improvements to its predecessors. It was larger, its hull
It took over twenty men to keep the operation going, including a superintendent, dredge master, bookkeeper, electrician, part-time surveyor, shop foreman, machinists, shore crew and dredge crew. However, it only took three of those men to operate the dredge; the front oiler, the rear oiler, and the
The Dredge Operated Continuously,
24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. Christmas and the Fourth of July were the only observed holidays. In 1942, the dredge was shut down as all non-essential mining operations were ordered to cease production for the duration of World War II. On July 5,
The Baker Dredging Company operated the dredge until 1950 when they decided to sell it to another mining company also with the name Powder Dredging Company. With the new system there was hope of recovering the gold missed by the first two dredges, however they did not recover as much gold as they had anticipated and with the expenses of running the operation increasing after the war they found they could not make enough to make ends meet as we were still on a gold standard and gold was still $35 an ounce. The Powder Dredging Company ceased dredging in August of 1954, $100,000 in debt.
Still Want to Know More About the Dredge?
This video gives an excellent overview of what it was like to work on the dredge. Thank you Oregon Parks and Recreation for creating this amazing resource!