Burnt River Gold - Eastern Oregon Mining

Burnt River Gold - Mining Areas in Eastern Oregon
The Burnt River is one of several rich gold-bearing rivers in Eastern Oregon. Some people believe that it is the original site of the famous “Blue Bucket Mine.”

Historic production records for the Burnt River are difficult to interpret. Placer gold deposits can be found for almost the entire length of the river, starting near Unity and continuing eastward all the way to Huntington where to flows into Brownlee Reservoir.

At the upper extent you will find some of the more extensive workings took place in the Hereford and Bridgeport area. Clarks Creek flows into the Burnt River here, and it was a very significant gold producer with considerable tailing piles left behind from early miners. There are still a few mines active in this area.

From Bridgeport, the river enters a narrow winding canyon as it continues eastward. There is decent gold all throughout this section of river. In fact, the Lost Dutchman Mining Association has a camp in the canyon upstream from Durkee, near the mouth of Cave Creek.

Throughout the canyon you will also see a fair amount of hard rock mining activity from the past. Lots of small diggings can be seen up on the hillsides as miners searched for lode deposits. Most of these were deposits were minor. You will find a lot of active claims along the river that will prevent you from prospecting, but many of the tributaries and gulches that drain into the Burnt River also contain gold. I have a friend who has found some really nice gold specimens searching this area with a metal detector.

The lower section of the river has also been mined. Below Durkee, the river continues south along the I-84 freeway. Quite a bit of this section is on private lands, but there are some segments of the river that flow through BLM land.


Historically, the section of the river around Weatherby and Dixie saw a fair amount of activity. You can see a lot of old diggings right from the freeway if you look for them. Major mines along the lower section of the river include the Gold Ridge Mine, Gleason Mine, Little Bonanza Mine and Little Hill Mine.

It is noteworthy that much of the better gravels to work here are not actually in the river itself, but actually above the current waterline. Old ancient river channels that have been left “high and dry” above the current channel are also auriferous. In fact, prospecting in the river itself can be quite challenging due to excessive overburden that covers the bedrock (and gold). These ancient stream gravels are more accessible and easier to work.

Not only does nearly the entire Burnt River contain gold, but the majority of the small tributaries that feed into it also contain some decent gold. There are mines all over this country. In fact, some of the smaller tributaries are actually richer than the river itself, and there is a lot of good ground in this part of Eastern Oregon that remains unclaimed and open to casual prospecting.

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