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Sumpter Valley Dredge, Sumpter

#530 of 2,102 in Things to do in Oregon
Landmark · Tourist Spot
The Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge is a historic gold dredge located in Sumpter, in the U.S. state of Oregon. Gold was discovered in Sumpter in 1862. Three gold dredges were put into service in the Sumpter Valley district between 1912 and 1934.
A gold dredge works by having large buckets that pull the gold-bearing earth up into its machinery to be processed, keeping the gold and spewing the waste out the back by way of a stacker. Built on a shallow hull, these dredges did not need a lot of water to operate, as they moved their pond of water with them.
The internal mechanics were not very sophisticated—they duplicated, on a larger scale, many of the devices used by placer mining throughout the gold rush, such as the gold pan and the sluice box. In essence, the dirt that was dug by the large electrically powered buckets was sifted and sorted, and the remainder was washed over a series of riffles allowing the gold to settle and be trapped. The primary advantages that made the dredge more efficient than other methods were the volume of earth it could process and having its own water supply. The dredge that was built in Sumpter Valley could dig over 20 buckets per minute, consuming more than seven yards of earth each minute.
The Sumpter Valley Gold Dredge required a three-man crew to operate the machinery and 17 more workers to complete the crew for maintenance, bookkeeping, surveying, truck driving, managing and a few other roles. The dredge operated 363 days a year; most of the men were given the Fourth of July and Christmas day off from work. One or two men had to stay on board to watch over the machine during the evenings. Dredge workers often reported hearing the ghost of Joe Bush "Haunting" the dredge when the dredge was not operating due to closure or repair.
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Sumpter Valley Dredge reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
77 reviews
  • We love industrial historical sites and this did not disappoint. Lots of history to marvel at and explore. Never heard of gold dredges so fascinating plus enjoyed going back in time in local town...  more »
  • Very interesting. I did not know much about gold mine dredging. It was interesting to walk on the trails and view the river and how they dredge it. The equipment is huge.  more »
  • This was very interesting and a short walk from the RV park. They have added a very nice gravel walking path that takes you throughout the dredge area. Historical for adults and kids.  more »
  • This is a great place for a family learning adventure. The park ranger is friendly and knowledgeable. From the dredge walk through Sumpter and be surprised by all the old buildings and equipment left from the gold Rush. A must see for any family.
  • This was a great stop to visit. They have tours about every half hour starting at 10 on Saturdays and Sundays. There's a couple of short trails around the dredge as well as picnic tables in the shade. My kids loved exploring inside the dredge and reading all the informational posts. They also have opportunities to pan for gold although I believe you have to pay to keep part of what you find.
  • Dredge was interesting. Need to come on a weekend if you want a guided tour. The man at the visitor center was very nice! However, the female volunteer ruined our visit. I stopped in front of the restroom and got rudely bawled out in front of my children. She approached my running vehicle yelling ' what part of 'no parking' can't you understand??? She proceeded to yell about how I was in a traffic zone. There were maybe two other guests at the center and not one car in or out while I was stopped. The entrance is plenty wide so I wasn't blocking anything in the two to three minutes I was stopped. I tried to explain that I was just waiting for my daughter for a minute but she proceeded to yell at me. I understand that places like this need volunteers but looking through reviews others have had similar experiences. I was wrong to stop where I did but it could have been handled much more professionally and with kindness rather than yelling in front of my 8 year old. Totally uncalled for!! Ended what would have been a nice experience on a very sour note.
  • The dredge itself is pretty cool. Would have been even better if the people that run it wouldn't of lied to us about opening it up to see it. Drove 7 hours each way because we were told they would be there and able to show us around. Once we got there no one to be found and never heard back from them. My son was extremely excited to see it as he is a huge fan of the show Gold Rush. Got to try to explain to a pretty disappointed 10 year old why someone would do that. Thanks.
  • Very interesting exibit of an old dredge. It's very will maintained for its age. The volunteer that works there was very knowledgeable of the dredge.

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