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Work buzzing at Sumpter Dredge
By LISA BRITTON
Baker City Herald
New gravel piles have appeared behind the Sumpter dredge, but the historic machine still sits silent in its pond.
These piles, unlike the rocks scattered throughout Sumpter Valley, were sculpted by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, who worked at the dredge for two weeks during the summer.
The tailings were moved to the park from the property of Dean Defrees.
Members of the Oregon National Guard also worked at the dredge this summer, and spent two months building a new floor in the winch room, and restoring the bell system.
Now, with the flip of a switch, high-pitched ringing breaks the silence inside the dredge.
"That's how they talked to each other because it was really loud," said Rella Pfleeger-Browne, park ranger aide.
And the dredge must have made quite the racket as the 72 one-ton buckets scraped loose rock from the riverbank, which was then sifted through steel cylinders to separate gold from sediment.
The dredge, before shutting down in 1954, dug up more than four million dollars worth of gold.
Future plans for the dredge include new exterior painting, flashing around the windows and the replacing deterioriated siding on the south side. That should all happen in the next year, said Park Ranger Karen Spencer.
She said there are also plans for a new rest room building that will be located by the railroad depot.
The Sumpter dredge will close for the season Oct. 31. The surrounding 80-acre park, with 3 miles of trails, is open year-round. The phone number is 541-894-2486.