|Exploring the Blue Mountains of
Exploring old gold mines and ghost towns of Eastern Oregon
|Last update: February 18, 2005
|John and I had explored this area of Oregon many times before. But this would be our first fully
documented trip specifically for the website. Despite our many trips before, we would also explore
a few areas that we had never seen. Eastern Oregon is full of history, but the Blue Mountains of
Eastern Oregon is perhaps one of the most rich in gold rush artifacts of any area of the Northwest.
|Maps of the Area
|Day One - July 18, 2003
|Our first day (or night) out is always the worst. John and I would always scramble to leave as soon as possible,
usually the night before our trip so we can get out to as close to our destination as possible and make the best use of
our trip. This trip would be no different. We left Portland at around 10pm on Thursday, July 17th. Our destination
would as far we could get until we needed to stop and sleep. It would take at least 4 hours to reach Baker City,
Oregon on Hwy 84. That would be our last stop of major civilization before heading into the Blue Mountains.
After almost 3 hours of driving, we were tired as could be. We needed to stop and sleep, but we had a problem. We
were only a few miles from the city of Pendleton. Pendleton is a fairly large city in Eastern Oregon and the entire
area was nothing but farms and open fields. Not exactly the best place to pull over and set up camp for the night.
We noticed what appeared to be a radio tower out in the middle of some field. We followed the blinking light in
hopes of finding a secluded area that we could camp for the night. What we found was a short dirt road that lead to
the VFO for the Pendleton airport. The VFO is a critical navigation aid and thus they are usually located in
somewhat remote areas. It's also usually off limits and very well protected. We parked the truck behind the large
VFO building, in a field, and set up camp. We made sure we were nowhere within any restricted area, but I didn't
like the campsite one bit. By morning no one bothered us and we got a few hours of sleep.
|The rear canopy area
loaded for the trip.
This is where I would
sleep at nights. John
has his own tent.
|Our first night's campsite near the VFO radio tower in
an open field near Pendleton. Not as bad as sleeping
next to a busy railroad on our Hells Canyon Trip, but
not our best choice either.
|Maps of the Area
|Cabell City - A real ghost town
|The next morning we left the Pendleton area and headed for Baker City. Prior to our planned arrival in Baker, we
decided that it would be better to turn west in to the Blue Mountains well north of Baker City, from Powder. So we
turned west from North Powder off of Hwy 84. We took Powder River road into the mountains. We explored the
views from Powder River road, which were worth the drive. We also stopped at a small high mountain lake called
Anthony Lake, for a few minutes. And we noted the burned our forest along the way. Our first major destination
would be Cabell City. Cadell City is not exactly a city, but more of a homestead. Fred and John Cabell operated
the La Belleview mine (which we would visit later in the day) starting in 1875. But while attending college in
Frieburg, Germany, Fred became engaged to a German girl. For almost 20 years, the girl waited for Fred while he
worked the Labellevue mine to save up enough money to send for her to come to America. Yes, 20 years.
Sometime in the 1880s, she arrived in Oregon. They stayed together in what would later be known as Cabell City.
Cabell City was basically several mines developed by Fred on the property. He later built buildings, including a
house, several out buildings and garages and a large mill. To an outsider this might seem like a small town or city,
thus the name. Mrs. Cabell lived with Fred all those years in the very remote mine and never saw or spoke with
another woman the entire time. They had one child, a girl, who died at the age of 8 after being given a dose of the
wrong medicine. She was buried in what would be known as Cabell Cemetery on the Cabell property.
Fred Cabell died in Sumpter, Oregon in 1914. He knew of his impending death and had a coffin custom made a few
days before he died. He was buried along side this daughter. Mrs. Cabell died April 1923 in Baker City, where
she later moved after her husband died. When the roads cleared later that spring, her body was also taken to the
Cabell Cemetery and buried along side her husband and daughter. Today, only the wooden grave marker of Mrs.
Cabell survives, along with a primitive Forest Service fence to help protect gravesites.
What happened to the property later is a bit unclear. It appears that at some point, probably in the 1920s and
1930s someone actively operated the mine on a larger scale. Today it is a decaying remote homestead and mine
with a very large amount of equipment and buildings left behind. It is owned by the National Forest. There are not
any no trespassing signs and public access appears to be allowed, but finding the site is not easy if you don't know
where it is. Upon reaching an old gate, we had to park the truck and walk about 1/2 mile to the site.
|Looking west from just
east of Anthony Lake.
|A high mountain lake called Anthony
|Driving the road to
|The only remaining grave marker.
Mrs. Cabell. Buried in 1923. Note that
the marker is made of wood. May the
Cabell family rest in peace.
|A view of the main house and buildings in Cabell City
where Mr. and Mrs. Cabell lived in the late 1890s and
early 1900s. Much of the buildings were covered with
undergrowth and trees and were hard to reach.
|The mill at Cabell City. This was a large mill but is
in a serious state of decay, although the walls still
|We imagined that most, if not all the equipment on the site dated to the period after Fred Cabell died. While the
equipment we found was old to be sure, it likely dates to the 1920s and 1930s. The site was extremely remote and
even more so in those days. But it did have electricity at some point in it's history. A very large generator that was
still at the site, provided electricity to the mine, mill and main house. Today some of the overhead wires were still
present. You can see two of them still strung from the main house in one of our pictures. The large generator,
although in a serious disrepair, was located next to the mill which no doubt used most of the electricity. I imagine
the generator might have dated to an even later period. Perhaps the 1940s or 1950s, but there is no way of knowing
for sure. The mill was a site to see, it was completely full of all kinds of heavy mill equipment. On the site were
many outbuildings, all full of misc. equipment and junk. Some equipment indicated that perhaps the mine was
occupied and used into the 1960s or early 1970s. After walking up a road leading away from the house that was
long overgrown and not driven over for many, many years, we located the remains of the mines, which were long
collapsed or perhaps blown shut. Just outside the mines we found many railroad tracks. Several buildings stood,
with one housing an extremely old gas powered air compressor. Based on the steel wheels and design of the
compressor, I would guess that it dates to the 1930s easily. Having been stored inside a building for most of its life,
it appeared to be in good condition. In another building we found a lot of mine equipment, including an ore cart, a
very old wheel barrel and even an old International Dump Truck that appears to date to the 1930s as well. It was
quite an amazing find. I was glad to see that no one had vandalized or tried to steal any of the equipment. And we
did the same and left it all behind for others to see in the future.
We began to realize as we walked the site, that we were standing on an actual real ghost town, complete with the
graves of the original owners. This was as real as a remote Oregon ghost town gets. The site probably gets less
than a very few visitors each year that happen to know exactly where it is.
|The only remains of the
mines themselves are
this short section of track
leading over a tailings
pile. The shafts were
collasped or blown in.
|An ore cart found inside
one of the buildings near
the main mine.
|The diesel generator that
at one time powered the
|An abandoned International Dump truck in the same building as the ore cart. I'm not sure what
year this truck is. Anyone know? It looked as if it had been parked there for many years but was
still in relatively good shape.
|This is the inside of the mill. Note the equipment and especially how someone had taken an old Model T type car or truck
and used it and the motor to power part of the mill. Obviously this contraption likely dates to the 1930s, when converting
old cars and trucks from the early 1900s into power sources was common at mines. We seen this several times. It's just
amazing to me that stuff like this can still be found intact and in such good shape. The building was definately rickety.
We were nervous about entering and caution should be taken.
|Another abandoned truck on the site. This time it was parked on the
hill above the mill. This truck had not been driven in many, many
|The next mine site we visited was the Labellevue mine. As mentioned earlier, this mine was originally developed
by Fred and John Cabell before they developed the Cabell City mines. A few years ago, John and I visited this site
by accident during a snowy fall. We were in the area during hunting season (not to hunt, just to explore) and drove
up the road to the Labellevue mine, not knowing what was up there. The road was snowy at the time but in my
relatively stock truck back then, we had no problem reaching the mine. Today, the road was dry as a bone, but it
seemed a bit rough. Nothing that required 4 wheel drive, but I began to wonder how I drove up this road in a stock
truck in the snow without a whimper and yet today we crawled past drop offs and large ruts that would have
certainly given me pause were it wet or snowy. The first time we found the La Belleview mine, the buildings were
covered in snow. Today we found what was left, which isn't much. The only remaining building is a partly collapsed
log cabin. The other structures on the site were sadly little more than a pile of rubble and wood.
We aren't sure of the history of the Labellevue mine after the time of the Cabells. But the mine is privately owned.
In fact, the BLM marked this as a clean up site, but the current owners, whoever they are, refused to pay to have
the site cleaned up. We did notice bulldozer tracks and moved around dirt around the collapsed site of the mill and
wondered if maybe the mill was torn down on purpose in recent years. Nonetheless, the mines were also collapsed
or blown in. The claim dates to the mid 1870s. The buildings likely date from late 1800s as well.
We thoroughly explored the site. I found several dump sites which including many very old bottles, unfortunately all
were broken. I also found the soles of some shoes that used nails to tack the soles. The site would be a great
place to run a metal detector over.
|The only standing
structure at the La
Belleview mine is this
parly collasped log cabin.
|This is one of the DEQ's
concerns with the mine.
Polluted creeks run from
the mine shafts and
pollute local waters.
|The collasped stamp mill
on the site. It's possible
this mill was torn down on
|We wondered what this
contraption was. A
wooden circle painted red.
It was large and heavy.
We would soon find out in
a few days. Stay tuned.
|The town of Granite. Not
much too it, but it did have
one gas station and a small
|Copyright © 2004 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
Note about the photos on this site:
Most photos were taken by me, except for those that are otherwise indicated. I usually allow people to use my photos for personal use or websites. Simply
|We left the Labellevue mine late in the afternoon. We attempted to access several other mines in the area,
including the Continental and Buffalo mines but were met with gates and no trespassing signs. The Buffalo mine
appears to be a currently operational mine with several modern buildings on the site. The mine is so large that it's
tailings pile can be distinctly seen on the topographical maps, but we were not about to trespass on private lands.
By about 8pm we arrived in the town of Granite. Granite is a pretty darn small town. It's more of just a store with a
few scattered cabins and homes. It has the only store and gas for many miles around. There we fueled up and
prepared to look for a place to camp. Mt. Ireland Lookout is nearby and we considered driving to the top. Except
that you can't drive to the top. It's a 1500-foot hike to the look out from the nearest road. We later chose to drive
up Forest Road 10 toward the Fremont Powerhouse. There we would camp for the night about 4 miles past the old