(first posted 4/22/2013) 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.
The North Santiam is like so many rivers on the west side of the Cascades, gurgling down from the snowy peaks.
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.
There are numerous waterfalls along the way, and this time of year, the flow is still strong.
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.
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.
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.
In the summer, the pools below the many falls are superb swimming holes.
But kayakers prefer the higher water flows in the winter months.
What was once Merten Mill is identified by remnants of stationary steam engines.
This one has a tree growing right through it.
The big boiler that once fed the engines.
Fragments of the old mining railroad are to be found here and there.
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.
It gets the award for best patina ever. This is how I like to see that word be manifest.
It’s taken on the appearance of some types of granite or other sedimentary rock, with a superb range of textures and colors. Perfect!
The “stovebolt” six also looks like mottled stone. probably about as frozen up as one too.
This is where gas tanks commonly were in the old days.
The Bakelite wheel is starting to go.
I didn’t recognize this one right off.
The badge on the radiator is gone, although quite a bit of the chrome is still hanging on.
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.
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?
It does have beautiful cast iron wheels.
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.
And then there’s this International, listing gently to one side.
It too is developing a fine patina.
Looks like it started out as red.
The ’56 Ford Ford is the baby of the bunch.
Its tags were last renewed in 1992, which was the year mining operations ceased up here.
An alder is growing through the rotted wood of its bed. Fitting.
And a Douglas Fir is coming up through the Federal’s frame.
Bonus points for anyone who guesses what this frame belongs to.
There’s a big old four cylinder engine back here.
Very old school construction: an aluminum crankcase, topped by cast-iron cylinders cast in pairs.
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.
A Gabriel Snubber, a mechanical shock absorber. Nice name.
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.
Equipment is all around, being reclaimed by the trees.
Jawbone Flat’s firetruck, still sporting chains on the front wheels.
Obviously a former Navy truck.
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.
Can’t have mining without a big air compressor, like this Ingersoll Rand. Nice crank, and tasty wheels.
Radiators, including this one still sporting some of its chrome or nickel.
One more truck over here; another Federal. This one looks like its a ’29.
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.
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.
Lovely pics of mostly in disturbed relics resting in-situ. Agree with you on the patina. Thanks for sharing and thanks to Steffi for letting you take such pics on a nature hike!
Btw, I wonder why so many of them are missing doors…
These trucks were mostly used just around the camp, and they probably just got tired of bothering with the doors. I’ve seen that quite a bit with old trucks used in settings like this; much easier to hop in and out without doors, which were probably half-falling off anyway.
It gives Stephanie more time to examine the flora 🙂
You’re so right about the patina on that Chevy.
Nice! Something about heavy duty trucks from the 30s that grabs me. Not too many around, they got really used up, as this site shows. Great work Paul. Waukesha is still in business, but not making anything this small anymore.
Neat photos. Thanks!
It always blows my mind a little when you see wrecks like this being reclaimed by the environment. With the patina and the trees growing up through them, they look like something that’s just always been there. It’s almost hard to believe that these were once not only working trucks, but at some point they were shiny and new, fresh off an assembly line. It’d be neat to be able to look back through time and see exactly how they came to rest at that particular spot.
Equally hard to imagine this place as a hive of activity, seeing what it’s like now. I always try to cast my mind back and see it as it was, and sometimes write about what life might have been like there.
What a fantastic place. It is great to see those trucks left so intact. It is a little surprising they haven’t had their grills, fenders and such scavenged.
Possibly too remote? And if you have a three mile hike in, as Paul says, you’d have to be pretty fit or have a lot of helpers to get the bigger parts out.
A fabulous photo-essay. It is hard to imagine how these once supported men hard at work, then one day, nobody came back. Actually, I see a bit of a nature-style horror story. After all the years the trucks aided and abetted the hacking down of trees, the trees are now putting pinning down the helpless trucks. Once the metal brutes are sufficiently immobilized, will a gigantic old-growth tree fall and crush them all? A fitting end, but probably no sequel. 🙂
One minor nit – “Ruud hot water heater”. Isn’t it just water heater? Hot water doesn’t need a heater. Sorry, a thing with me. Carry on.
How about “cold water heater”?
But it doesn’t HAVE to be cold water! It could be lukewarm, or even tepid! It would heat ANY water!
But… but, JPC just said that hot water don’t need to be heated… ;D
And it could actually heat almost any liquid, not just water.
Nice old gear Ive seen some restored farming equipment and old trucks recently but Ive been frozen out of the cohort page since Yahoo went down.
Great find. Of course I like the K and the 56 Ford.
It does amaze me that all that stuff was left there and continues to stay there. I’d think the greenies would be worried about the fluids and such ruining the environment. With the price of scrap today I see thousands of dollars worth of stuff that I’m surprised that no one has carted off, not to mention the value of things like the headlight buckets and radiator grills to someone restoring one of those trucks or just to hang on the wall of the garage/man cave.
It’s a protected wilderness area now, and walk in only. And there are some folks who live in the Conservation Camp there year round. There would be substantial fines for heisting anything.
There are substantial fines and possible jail time for stealing anything but that doesn’t stop people from actually stealing things. Around here we’ve had guys that unbolted guard rails and pulled the wiring out of street lights right on the side of a busy freeway. At the dance studio, in a strip mall, my daughter goes to someone stole the large AC units off of the roof of the building.
As another poster noted down below it being a conservation area you would think they would want to clean it up and the value of the metal would more than pay for the labor to do so. Still for the most part I’m glad to see that it is being allowed to return to the elements.
Funny thing; but crime tends to be lower in rural or wilderness areas.
Even ones that are highly visited.
Logically, it doesn’t make sense; but what goes on in Detroit or Oakland doesn’t happen in places like this, or even national parks.
It’s a historical site! And these are historic artifacts. Surely you’ve heard about historic preservation? That’s all about leaving things as they are, so folks can see them and learn about what went on here long ago. Kinda’ like a living history museum. Why do you keep going on about hauling this historic stuff off to the scrap yard? A hundred years from now, it will still be here, with a bit more patina.
Seriously, hauling this stuff off would probably create a federal emergency! This is “conservation”.
Because the typical mindset of environmental conservation tends to be to remove the things that are seen as potential sources of pollution and to remove most of the evidence that man was there.
On the other hand historic conservation indicates to leave it as it is and I’m glad the historic preservationists are winning at least at this point.
That’s a somewhat crude generalization. Conservation is about preserving both natural and human-made elements. The big “issue” there that led to this area being designated a park and wilderness was about logging old-growth forests, not about removing man-made historical objects. Historic preservation has a long history with the government, and you’ll find sites like this all over the country, especially in the West.
There are very strong laws protecting historic sites, and disturbing them or stealing them is a federal offense. Fortunately.
I guess the big reason is what I’ve seen happen on private lands where things like this were present. I have an acquaintance who fought the county for years over the cars and trucks on his property. The fined him up the ying yang and then came out cuffed him and stuffed him the back of a police car and made him watch as tow trucks hauled his vehicles off to be crushed and then had the audacity to send him the bill for the towing but didn’t give him the money for the scrap metal. Not sure if the county kept it or the various tow truck companies did, or if one of them kept the GTO.
Now if that stuff is on gov’t owned property it’s history that should be preserved and not a potential environmental disaster or eye sore.
So I guess that is why I’m surprised that in OR which has the reputation of being full of tree huggers that there aren’t people screaming about this “environmental disaster”.
Going deep into the forest with heavy equipment to haul them out would create fresh damage. Besides, any mine tailings that may or may not still be around get people screaming, not a few old trucks.
It’s fair to say Oregonians of all stripes are fond of old hidden places like these.
Splendid piece, Paul, just splendid, thanks. I love Oregon.
Late but something I learned yesterday. We have a young Coastie on the USS Hornet every Saturday and he was back East last week for training. The training dealt maintaining buoys and their lights. We got onto how long these things last on batteries. Why the Coast Guard does what they do to make things more expensive and on, and on.
In the end theft came up somehow. The buoys use an LED and a board to control the flashing of the light. Apparently buoys were going out somewhere in South Carolina and it wasn’t burned out systems but stolen systems. Somehow they traced it down to a disco owner going out at night stealing the units out of the buoys for his club lighting. Hopefully he got fined substantially and maybe jail time.
I think the fire truck is an International.
Once hiked to an old abandoned french gold mine in the rain forest in the Panama Canal Zone. I was reminded of it when looking at the trolley cars etc but there is absolutely no comparison when you got to the trucks. I cannot recall any at all but I would love to walk around the graveyard you have here.
Someone must be keeping an eye on this stuff, right?
Any scrap of that magnitude would be long gone in most places, difficulty of removal be damned.
Yes; it’s a park and wilderness area, There’s some year-round caretakers and other residents that live in some of the buildings. It’s walk in only. And there would be fines if anyone got caught walking out with anything.
That’s interesting. First, seeing as how it’s closed to preserve wilderness and for conservation purposes…it would seem fitting to haul off the junk trucks; just as they’d want to pick up the beer cans left in camp before it became a preservation site.
Second…SOMEBODY went through there with a stick or a hammer, breaking headlights and such. Surprising nobody thought to take the brass with them. Or intact artifacts.
That said…the sudden abandonment of sites like this fascinate me. There is/was a mining company town in Colorado…can’t think of the name. The EPA ordered the mine closed in 1982; and the pumps that kept the mine dry were turned off. The pumps, much electrical equipment, and important systems were underground and were allowed to flood.
Since it was all company housing, everyone was turned out…locked up as best it could, and that was that. Except that it was directly off US 24; and sure, people came in there. The company had a watchman on duty for awhile; and then the sheriff for a time. Everyone lost interest.
I discovered the place in 1990; found, in one company building, a restorable mid-50s Chevrolet pickup. Made a note to see if I could come back and either buy it or steal it.
Gone seven years; and returned. Of course vandals did their worst to the town, ransacking most of the homes and public buildings. They’d also gotten into the building with the Chevy…looked like they either had a pit-mosh on the roof or went to work on it with sledgehammers.
What a waste.
I’ll repeat what I told Eric above:
It’s a historical site! Surely you’ve heard about historic preservation? That’s all about leaving things as they are, so folks can see them and learn about what went on here long ago. Kinda’ like a living history museum. Why do you keep going on about hauling this historic stuff off to the scrap yard? A hundred years from now, it will still be here, with a bit more patina.
Seriously, hauling this stuff off would probably create a federal emergency! This is “conservation”.
I’m surprised someone hasn’t come for that Dodge Power Wagon. Maybe we’ll start some movement……
“Later, lead, zinc, copper and lead were mined.”
Is the lead mined in two different mines, or was it mined before copper and
zinc and then again afterwards?
A lot depends on the price at the time.
Silver booms and busts in the Rockies, depended on the price and demand for the metal – the Free Silver Party, a political force in the mid-to-late 1800s, didn’t mean “free silver for everyone” but “free and unlimited coining of silver” – meaning, a demand for silver for coins.
Metals, especially precious metals but industrial metals as well – have had their ups and downs. Boom and bust; that’s the lot of a mining town.
…and they mined lead, too. And also lead.
Never been there but I have heard the stories. Thanks for the virtual trip, Paul.
The seat in the International looks a bit hard – not to mention risk of splinters!
I’ve had problems with slow access these days – probably caused by the sequester – so I just now got a look. Great walk with so much interesting old stuff to see.
On the Federal truck engine, many trucks of this size from low-volume mfrs were essentially assembled vehicles, and a big enough buyer probably could specify a non-stock engine. Or, as you pointed out, it could certainly have been retrofitted.
Way cool Paul! And kudos to Stephanie for her tolerance!
What a living museum that is….I love exploring place like that, whether it’s out in nature or an abandoned factory in an urban area. A few months ago I had the opportunity to poke around an area in north Texas that had a ‘flash’ town – 12 buildings, lasted about 3-4 years. Amazingly interesting.
Fascinating Paul! What and interesting spot – the sort of place I love, but which is rarely found here. Those trucks certainly are the epitome of patina.
Cars and trucks certainly resemble people, and none more than that ’29 Federal with the headlights leaning back like that. Like a sad car? Or a lonely old one? The whole business reminds me an old folks home (or an old trucks’ home) with residents who rarely see visitors and want them never to leave.
I hate to see these cool old beasts just rusting away like that. Could someone retrieve and restore them? Heck, with a vast amount of time and money one could build a museum on the spot featuring all the old vehicles.
Isn’t it a museum already, after a fashion? Seems to me it would be kind of a crime to pluck them away and restore them–they can be enjoyed as a part of history just as they are. Far gone enough that it would be a waste of effort and would scar the “as it was left” nature of the site.
If any of them were amazingly rare, or one of only a handful left in existence, then maybe it would be appropriate…
Beautiful pics of a beautiful area Paul, you are a lucky man to live nearby. So nice to see abandoned hardware that is not covered in graffiti.
I have always been fascinated by steam engines. That industrial size engine must have been something to behold with a full head of steam. Pardon the pun.
Cool place. The ambulance is a WWII US Army Dodge 3/4 ton 4×4 WC54, while the firetruck is an aftermarket job on a WWII International 1 ton 4×4 Model M-2-4, which was used by both the Navy and Marines, but not the Army.
Terrific photo essay.
As a historic preservationist I understand the preservation logic of leaving the machine relics in place. As a car nut I think leaving the 56 ford there and any usable parts on anything makes little sense. At some point there will be little left to show the machinery side of the operation and then what?
I don’t know how accessible this park is, but I’d suspect that some things have been removed by the less than preservation minded.
It would be interesting to see what the site looks like 10 years later….
We’ve been thinking about going back sometime; I’ll do an update if we do. But realistically, things change slowly.
I love all things Mechanical, I also love it when Nature reclaims them.
I have never seen a Federal Truck, and I only had vague knowledge of them until a few years ago, probably through Curbside Classics. From what I read, they were going great guns until the 1950’s, then they were bought by a succession of owners, finally NAPCO of all things, and production moved to Minnesota, and it was all over by 1960.