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DREDGING UP THE PAST

A cache by thehobbler & kid dakota Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 09/29/2011
Difficulty:
1.5 out of 5
Terrain:
2 out of 5

Size: Size: not chosen (not chosen)

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Geocache Description:

Much of the area is loose rock so take your time and watch where you step. Ample parking close to the coords.

To log this cache go to the coordinates above. This will put you on Prichard Creek Bridge.

1. Look east and note what the stream flow is. Is it high, medium, or low? Next look at the way the banks of the stream looks in relation to rocks, bushes and trees and remember as you will need to compare it to number 2.

2. Proceed to N 47 37.466 W 115 53.772 and try to get as close as you can to the coordinates. Is the stream flow here, high, medium, or low? Compare the flow and what the banks of the stream looks like to the stream by the bridge. What differences do you see and why.

3. The rocks are from the formation of the BELT SUPERGROUP (see picture), describe the shape, size, and color. Now imagine moving these rocks by hand to mine the gold.

4. Proceed to N 47 37.572 W 115 52.679 and described what you see.

5. Proceed to N 47 37.612 W 115 51.441 and you will find a sign. Who were A.J. Prichard’s partners?

6. Did you see any signs of a stream restoration anywhere along the creek?

7. Read the cache and tell me the current value of the gold recovered at today’s prices and round it off to the nearest million, you can keep the pocket change. See Hint for formula. Don’t all caches have hints?

8. East one block is the famous Sprag Pole Inn & Museum, and I urge you to go to the museum to look at the display of the Dredge and other items of the era. Free, but a small donation would be nice, look for the old milk can.

9. Also you may want to visit the cemetery where you can stroll and observe the grave markers. Be on the lookout of the famous “soiled dove” Molly Be Damn’s grave. Her story is in the Museum.

Email me your answers to questions 2-7. If you would like to post pictures do not include the sites in questions 2-5.

PRICHARD CREEK PAST

Gold was discovered near Murray in 1882 by A.J. Prichard and his partners. They agreed to keep it a secret but Prichard let the cat out of the bag and by the winter of 1883/4 the rush was on. BN Railroad had just pushed their line to Spokane and the miners poured in from Rathdrum and over Thompson Pass to the Murray area to file, and worked their claims, and to become millionaires. At this time Spokane had a population of 800 and soon Murray swelled to 5,000 the largest city in Idaho. As the miners started working their claim the destruction of Prichard Creek was started.

The life of a miner was hard. The merchant son who had never sleep on anything but a mattress found himself sleeping on bare ground with only a couple of blankets for warmth. The farmer son who had animals to do the heavy work now found himself doing the work of mules. The burly well-muscled blacksmith found aches and pains of muscles he never knew he had. Water was a necessity to use to wash the material, to pan, or work the sluice boxes and hours on end the feet, legs and hands were always wet and cold even in summer time. If you have ever waded in a mountain stream on a nice warm summer day you could imagine what it would be like in the winter. If your claim was not in the stream you would have to carry buckets and buckets of water to your claim. The daily life of a miner was up before dawn, fix the food for the rest of the day and work the claim. Most miners lived in shacks, tents or even a tarp spread between trees. When they came back to camp at dusk, they had to change into dry clothes (assuming they had an extra set) and start a fire if they had wood or go out and collect some. Then got ready for the next day and collapsed into their bedrolls just to wake up to start another day. Sanitation was non-existent outbreaks of water borne diseases could become epidemic. Go to the cemetery and look.

The creek was a worthy foe. It was filled with stones 25 to 50 feet deep which make it hard to get to bedrock. Since gold is one of the heaviest metals, it would work down to bedrock, which is where the most gold would be found. Each stone had to be lifted and moved by hand. As the miners dug down, with only picks and shovels and their bare hands, their digs would fill up with water. It was stones, water and more stones and always water to chill the weary bones. Very few miners were able to find the riches that the creek promised them; the gold was just too deep. If they were lucky they would find enough gold to keep going a little longer but the gold is always hard to get and the grubstake slowly ran out. Miners dreamed of riches and it would fuel the drive to mine, but slowly it was replaced with missed family and friends, and things they had left behind, and couple this with the hard work for little gold it became very discouraging. Most days they would be happy with a full belly, enough sleep, and warm and dry clothes. Merchants were the best miners. They mined the miners, by charging outlandish prices for all items. The only distractions from the hard work were fighting; drinking, gambling, and most of the saloons had “soiled doves” to remind them of the life they left behind. But as hard and discouraging the work was they continued to tear up the creek until the gold ran out. A very few miners found enough gold to leave with more money than the grubstake he started with. Most left broke and broken with not enough money to move on. The gold rush was over after a few years. The creek had survived and won this round. It riches mostly not touched. Noah Kellogg gave his claim up in 1885 to prospect for gold a couple of valleys south. Noah’s jackass got loose one night and Noah looked him the next morning. Noah found the jackass on a hillside grazing and on the ground; Noah noticed a streak of silver. Thanks to a jackass, the area became the start of the silver valley boom and the rest is history.

After 30 years with little activity on the creek, The Yukon Gold Company decided to bring in a dredge. It was shipped by rail and horse drawn wagons and assembled near the mouth of Prichard creek and was ready to operate by 1918. The dredge was 44’ wide, 106’ long and as tall as a 6 story building. (See the picture.) It floated on 14’ of water. The dredge had a gas engine that produced electricity to 6 huge electric motors. It only took 6 men to work it and it worked 3 shifts a day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. It only shut down for routine maintenance and breakage. The dredge could move 2,000 cubic yards of material every hour and each cubic yard weighed 2 tons. Probable it could move more in a day than all of the 1884 miners total could move in a week. Even though the creek beat the earlier horde of miners, it could not beat a machine.

The front of the dredge had a one piece moveable conveyor system with buckets attached and could reach the 50’ to bedrock. The average size of the largest rocks you see will give you the idea of how big of stones the buckets could manage. The conveyer and the buckets never stopped rotating. The material from the buckets would drop down inside the dredge on top of layered metal plates. These plates were spaced vertically and had one sizes of holes in them, with the largest holes on top plate to the smallest holes on the on the bottom plate. These plates vibrated and were sprayed with large volume of water. As the material hit the plates the largest stones would be rejected but all of the dirt and nuggets would be washed off. Any material that would be smaller fell through the holes to the next plate where it sorted and washed again and so on until the last plate with the smallest holes allowed only the small pebbles, sand and nuggets to fall into a vibrating sluice box. The sluice box vibrated until all that were left were the nuggets and enriched sand. In most gold mining operations, only 1% of the gold is in nugget form, what you can see with the naked eye. The other 99% is in flakes or flour that you cannot see and this is called enriched sand. Since gold is so heavy, it is a gravity system where all lighter items float away and all that is left is the gold and what it is attached to, such as small particles of sand. All of the rejected material is called overburden and was deposited on another conveyor belt that emptied out of the rear of the dredge on a second conveyer.

Once the dredge was assembled it had to be floated, remember it took 14’ of water to float. A dam had to be built downstream from where it sat. The dredge probably helped build the dam but surely it took man and animals also. Cables were winched out from the dredge to trees to hold it in place as the buckets bit deep into the stream. The overburden came out of the back conveyer and built the dam higher and the water deeper. The dredge would move side-to-side scouring the whole valley floor searching for gold. To move, it used the cables to drag itself a few feet each time. When all material was attained going left to right it would move a few feet forward with its cables and start working sideways again. 24/7/365 the buckets ripped the guts out of the creek, some areas 50’ deep to bed rock. For almost 8 years what it scooped up came out the back and kept building its own dam working its way upstream for 7 ½ miles (see picture). One or two persons worked the sluice box picking out unwanted material, picking out the larger nuggets, and collecting the enriched sand. This was transported to shore to the processing area. If gold is embedded in small rocks and pebbles it must be crushed to smaller sizes. Then the gold laden material is heated to over 2,063 degrees which is the melting point of gold. To help the process either arsenic or mercury was used and both are nasty stuff and very toxic to the environment and man. The creek bed still has high levels of both. The gold will pool at the bottom of the container and the impurities or dross will float on top of the gold. The dross is skimmed off and what is left is liquid gold which is then poured into ingots. The ingots were shipped to the silver valley by stage coach (even in 1924, a stage coach!). This gold was not your 99.9% pure but had to be smelted again. $1,000,000 was removed by the dredge at a value of $20.67 an ounce. You do the math at today’s gold value of over $1,800 an ounce. It was all economics and there was no EPA to look over their shoulders. And now this is what is left of their greed.

What happened as the overburden was dumped out the back of the dredge, the dirt and soil went to bedrock and the rocks and stones went on top. Just reverse of nature. Since there is no soil there are no plants and hence little stream wild life. Once the dredge reached as far as it could go or the gold ran out it was stripped of all useful machinery and left floating in its last pond. After 85 years there is nothing of the dredge to look at, the creek and Mother Nature took their final revenge. The stream is trying to heal itself but as you will see it needs a lot of help from man. It will take a lot of silt to fill in the cracks between the rocks to allow plant life to gain a toe hold. I have seen ½ dozen of these dredging operations and what they have done to the valleys and streams. Prichard Creek is no better or worse, it just has more trees to block the views of the travelers. The ugly scars still remain and I hope you can experience them up close and personal as I have.

Since Earth Caches are educational in nature I encourage the cachers to explore the various subject areas. Life of a prospectors and miner, dredging, gold, and visit your local museums for local knowledge.

GOLD TRIVIA

One ounce of gold is about the size of a sugar cube

Gold is so malleable that it can be hammered so thin that sunlight can shine through it and a one inch stack would contain 200,000 separate sheets

One ounce of gold can be drawn into a wire 60 miles long

A one-ounce gold nugget is rarer to find than a five carat diamond and is classified as a gem.

A gold nugget can be worth up to 8 times its weight due to the scarcity

In every cubic mile of seawater there is 25 tons of gold! That's a total of about 10 billion tons of gold in the oceans; however, there's no known way to economically recover it.

REFERENCES

Sprag Pole Museum and Wallace Museum

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

$1,000,000/$20.67=bm erpbirerq gvzrf pheerag cevpr $1,800. Ebhaq bss gb gur arnerfg zvyyvba naq qba'g sbetrg gb xrrc gur cbpxrg punatr.

Decryption Key

A|B|C|D|E|F|G|H|I|J|K|L|M
-------------------------
N|O|P|Q|R|S|T|U|V|W|X|Y|Z

(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



 

Find...

  • Belt Supergroup Rock
  • Over Burden Google EarthThis is what it looks like from the air. You only see a small part from ground level
  • The BeastThe only picture I could find was under glass, so I had to angle my camera so the flash would not wash the picture. This is why the dredge looks out of whack.

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