There is plenty to experience in the Oregon Sumpter Valley during the summer season and the local historic sites are prime attractions. The Sumpter Valley is a vast agriculture and wildlife management area that is surrounded by deep pine forest covered mountains. The Powder River runs through this valley and a dam was built to create a large reservoir lake where ospreys can be seen diving for fish. This valley is a good fishing destination and there are several National Forest campgrounds in the local area. The birding is excellent on just about any given day because of the unique valley terrain, which actually is composed of rows upon rows of shallow canals and long berms that are the result of massive gold dredging operations back in the early 1900s.
Gold was discovered in the Sumpter Valley region back in the 1860s, but this was such a remote location that the placer mining operations did not go full swing until the late 1800s. Soon after a narrow gauge railway connected the town of Sumpter with the outside world, full scale placer gold dredging operations commenced. Three large dredges carved up the pristine river valley landscape for a few decades and as a result, this region turned into an environmental disaster. Nearly 100 years has passed since then and after many reclamation projects, the Sumpter Valley has become lush and green once again. Many of the old rows of dredging mounds and canals have been retained, which are like a magnet for flocks of migrating birds.
The Oregon State Park Service manages the gold rush era historic sites in the Sumpter Valley, which include the narrow gauge railway and an old original gold dredge that is in top condition. Both the dredge and the Sumpter Valley Railroad are prime summer attractions that offer a chance to learn about the history of this region. Best of all, the old Sumpter Valley Railroad steam engine is operational and scenic railway tours can be booked in McEwan or Sumpter. Gold panning is also part of the program, which is a thrill for visitors of all ages. Going for a steam engine train ride and touring the old gold dredge will provide memories that will last a lifetime, so be sure to keep this unique state park in mind when touring northeastern Oregon!
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