Sumpter Valley Dredge, Oregon: One of the Biggest Gold Dredges

The dredges that once mined gold out West typically aren't open to the public. So my husband and I jumped at a chance to board one of the biggest ever made — the venerable 1,240-ton Sumpter Valley Dredge (above) outside scenic Sumpter, Oregon.

Built for $350,000 in 1935, the dredge produced $4.5 million in gold in just less than 20 years. Except during World War II, it operated daily in all kinds of weather.

As we examined the machinery in the cool depths of its interior, we could almost hear the ear-splitting roar the powerful behemoth produced years ago.

The Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area is located on State Highway 220, about 3 miles north of State Highway 7 (the Elkhorn Scenic Byway) and about 30 miles west of Baker City — just follow the signs. The day-use park is open year-round; dredge tours (first floor wheelchair-accessible) are offered only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily from May through October.

To learn more, call 1-541/894-2486.

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