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Monday, October 8, 2012

Exploring Blewett Pass

In June of 2012 I had an opportunity to explore areas that were a little further east of my previous trips. The state of Washington has a very interesting history with regards to gold mining but I found that the wet climate is very destructive of wooden structures. What is readily preserved in Southern California's dry desert climate is not something that may last long with the yearly 9 months of rain and snow that descends upon western Washington.

It was 1858 when Mortimer Robinson found gold in the gravel of Peshastin Creek. By 1874 the placer workings had run out but veins of gold had been discovered and soon the hills were riddled with thousands of feet of tunnels and vertical shafts. The small town that was established was originally called Warner when the US Post office was established but later in 1893 it was changed to Blewett after Edward Blewett of Seattle. His gold mining company controlled the majority of the claims in the hills around the creek. The current highway runs right through the original town site at an elevation of 2,328 feet. The town once included a two story hotel, school, telegraph office, boarding house, log cabin and frame homes as well as the inevitable saloon.


This building may have been the one covering the stamp mill remains in the next pictures below

This once mighty twenty stamp mill is now a frail shadow that is mainly composed of rotten wood and rusty hardware. It is located just off the highway near the forestry road's gated entrance.

This fascinating 30 foot diameter wooden water wheel is gone but possibly it powered the early arrastre for grinding ore.

Some of the modern miners are lacking in stewardship of the land in their rush to mine for gold. The ore cart track system is likely to be old stock "salvaged" from other mining claims. There were literally piles of rusty track all up and down the road.

Many old mines have been extensively renovated in the quest for highly valuable gold. This picture was taken without entering the mine.

Yet some facilities still lie dormant, such as these ore cart tracks covered in a carpet of pine needles. They lead to a chute that brought ore to a mill.

Here the road passes through the middle of one operation. The extensive tunnels' entrance is covered in a landslide yet someone is keeping the buildings in good shape.

This old air powered Eimco 12B rocker shovel has a new paint job despite sitting unused for many years. It was attached to a dump cart and an Eimco 401 compressed air powered locomotive.

This site was well back from the road but looked to be well maintained with buildings sporting stout doors and windows.

Keep out!

I found this sign above a 300 foot deep vertical shaft

The full story of Ronald's demise is here on page 4 http://www.dnr.wa.gov/Publications/ger_dgernews_2006_v3_no3.pdf
"Photos found on the camera of Ronald Calder, 46, suggest he'd explored caves and mines in the area before attempting to descend into an abandoned gold mine, said Detective Mitch Matheson of the Chelan County's Sheriff's Office. Calder set out June 20. His car was found at a monument on the Old Blewett Highway about 8 miles north of the summit and 1.5 miles from the mine shaft. Calder appears to have tied a rope around a tree and descended about 100 feet into the shaft, which was about 4 feet by 4 feet wide, Matheson said. The detective believes that Calder then unhitched himself on a ledge to explore some horizontal shafts in the mine and was later unable to grab back onto his rope. Matheson said the temperature was about 55 degrees in the shaft and that Calder, an inexperienced climber, was wearing only light clothing, having left his pack at the top. A coroner's report indicates Calder died of hypothermia, Matheson said."

 It was a remote and lonely place to die alone.

When researching where to go I found some fascinating photos and narrative about Blewett Pass at this site:
http://www.brian894x4.com/Washeastcascadestripday3.html   It is interesting to compare his 2003 photos with mine and note some interesting changes.

The holders of the current mining claims have posted all sorts of dire warnings in an attempt to curtail legal access to the public forestry road. The road crosses right through some mining claims so it is difficult to respect the rights of the owners in those situations. Take pictures and nothing else!

Old gas and diesel engines from Hercules and Cleveland tractor (Cletrac) litter the hillsides.

When searching for the old tramline that ascended 1000 feet up the hills I came across a segment of early 1900s wire rope. It consists of a hemp rope center wrapped by 6 large cables each of which is made of 19 smaller strands. These were very common with logging operations that pulled logs through systems of chutes.

I could not find any standing towers. This picture of a collapsed one that looked to be a double A-Frame is the best that I could do.

This grainy telephoto shot shows the roller located at the top of the tower for the drive cable.

When I made it up the full 1,000 feet to the top of the forestry road I was greeted with wonderous vistas of the craggy Cascades as well as Spring wildflowers.

Be sure to explore the surrounding area for great photo opportunities such as this Northwest Engineering pull shovel!

Or this really blue Studebaker truck.

Thanks for visiting my blog and sharing the adventure. Be sure to share the blog with your friends and family!

12 comments:

  1. Great blog. I want to spend more time out west!

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  2. Thanks for sharing another nice report, and one that I'd been meaning to read for a while now. Thanks also for including the details about Ronald Calder. It was a sad and cautionary story, and a good reminder about the very real dangers of those oh-so-tempting mines.

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  3. thanks for sharing.

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  4. um that is awesome i grew up around there so its pretty much my backyard please call 3603067207

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    1. Phone number is no good. Goes to a front desk

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  5. Nice pictures of Culver Gulch, I've been one of the placer miners up there since the early 80's on Negro Creek and then Peshastin Creek since the early 90's. The current owner of the unpatented claims up Culver makes it difficult for folks to access those public lands, but you have every right to do so!
    Some of that property is patented, be careful about knowing where you are!
    I've been up there many times over the years, but then I knew the old owners and they were friendly ;)

    Ron

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  6. Enjoyed your photos.

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  7. I enjoyed your blog post. The Blewett area is near to my heart, even if I do spend most of my time around Naneum and Haney Meadows, and also around Liberty to the Taneum Ridge. I have placered Scotty, Shaser, Negro, and Swauk Creeks in my time. I love the green glassy-looking mineral that is within the basalt hillsides between Shaser and Negro. I have also found water-worn gravels up as high as 5000' around there. I have read many other blogs by Brian4x4, including Toyota 4x4 info, railroading, and now mining?! I should meet this guy.

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  8. There is a dangerous and terribly ANGRY man in Culver Gulch who is an internet stalker and cyber bully who freely threatens people who give out information on the area. His initials are KLB and he freely gives out his phone number as 509-760-1231. If he threatens you go to the police with the information and let them know about this crazy person.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah that jerk went on Facebook and sent me a threatening message too. I deleted it but am glad I saw your information about him so I can warn others.

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