Creekside Classics: Opal Creek Mining Camp Survivors – They Rust In Pieces

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On Sundays, we usually head for the great outdoors, a break from cars and CC. But sometimes they’re hard to get away from, even in the deep woods. Especially so if one heads up the trail along the North Santiam River to Opal Falls. There was mining activity up there once, and the proof of that is encountered all along the way.

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The North Santiam is like so many rivers on the west side of the Cascades, gurgling down from the snowy peaks.

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The old road is closed to the public, and the three mile hike in to Opal Creek and the the town of Jawbone Flats follows the river, often quite high above it.

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There are numerous waterfalls along the way, and this time of year, the flow is still strong.

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There’s a slight drizzle, which accentuates the sense of being surrounded by water on all sides. Little gurgling creeks and rivulets tumble down the sides of the trail every few yards, practically. This is essentially a temperate rain forest.

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Soon, one starts to see signs of the abandoned mining. The area was first mined for gold starting in 1859. Later, lead, zinc, copper and lead were mined.

DSC_0372image: opalcreek.org

The area still has many large stands of old growth timber, and and active effort to preserve them was started in the 1980s and culminated in the 1996 federal designation of the Opal Creek Wilderness. One has to experience old growth forest to appreciate their majesty. Hugs are optional.

Opal creek poolimage:top10zilla.com

In the summer, the pools below the many falls are superb swimming holes.

opal creek1image:oregon paddling.northwest-rivers.com

But kayakers prefer the higher water flows in the winter months.

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What was once Merten Mill is identified by remnants of stationary steam engines.

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This one has a tree growing right through it.

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The big boiler that once fed the engines.

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Fragments of the old mining railroad are to be found here and there.

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These trucks reside in Jawbone Flats, a former mining town that is now the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. Let’s poke around, and see what they are. First up is a Chevy, about 1936, I’d say.

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It gets the award for best patina ever. This is how I like to see that word be manifest.

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It’s taken on the appearance of some types of granite or other sedimentary rock, with a superb range of textures and colors. Perfect!

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The “stovebolt” six also looks like mottled stone. probably about as frozen up as one too.

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This is where gas tanks commonly were in the old days.

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The Bakelite wheel is starting to go.

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I didn’t recognize this one right off.

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The badge on the radiator is gone, although quite a bit of the chrome is still hanging on.

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The manufacturer’s plate under the hood identifies it as a Federal. My Truck Spotter’s Guide tells me it’s a ’35 or ’36.

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The engine is a Hercules. The Guide says that Federal used Continental and Waukesha engines. Is it wrong, or did someone swap this Hercules in at some point? Anybody care?

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It does have beautiful cast iron wheels.

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This appears to be an ambulance variant of the Dodge Powerwagon (CC here). Not surprising to see it up here, as it’s the only four wheel drive of the bunch. There’s a fair amount of snow up here in the winter, especially some years.

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And then there’s this International, listing gently to one side.

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It too is developing a fine patina.

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Looks like it started out as red.

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The ’56 Ford Ford is the baby of the bunch.

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Its tags were last renewed in 1992, which was the year mining operations ceased up here.

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An alder is growing through the rotted wood of its bed. Fitting.

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And a Douglas Fir is coming up through the Federal’s frame.

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Bonus points for anyone who guesses what this frame belongs to.

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There’s a big old four cylinder engine back here.

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Very old school construction: an aluminum crankcase, topped by cast-iron cylinders cast in pairs.

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A Waukesha, makers of very tough truck and industrial engines. The plate says it’s from 1920, has a 4½” bore and 6¼” stroke, and a governed speed of 1000 rpm. Bet it sounded nice at full chat.

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A Gabriel Snubber, a mechanical shock absorber. Nice name.

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A little way over is a collection of heating equipment, including this Ruud hot water heater. Ruud still makes hot water heaters, but they look a bit different now.

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Equipment is all around, being reclaimed by the trees.

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Jawbone Flat’s firetruck, still sporting chains on the front wheels.

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Obviously a former Navy truck.

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I’m a bit stumped by its engine, though. I assumed it would have a “Jimmy” GMC six, but this is not one. It’s getting a bit late for me to chase it down; one of you will recognize it.

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Can’t have mining without a big air compressor, like this Ingersoll Rand. Nice crank, and tasty wheels.

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Radiators, including this one still sporting some of its chrome or nickel.

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One more truck over here; another Federal. This one looks like its a ’29.

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Like the other Federal, this one doesn’t have its original engine either, as there’s an International OHV six from a later vintage hiding here.

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That’s it for the most compelling equipment. The drizzle turned to light rain, so we headed back to the car, where thermos of black tea and milk, and some goodies were awaiting us. Can’t leave all the comforts of home behind, especially at tea time.