In 1862 gold was discovered near present day Canyon City and by the mid-1860s mine claims were established along the Middle Fork John Day River and many of its tributaries. Chinese immigrant miners were prohibited from prospecting and filing claims but they could purchase or lease claims from Euro-American miners and by 1864 the first such sales were recorded. Through their skill in constructing ditches and reservoirs, and their knowledge of a variety of placer mining techniques, the Chinese miners were able to turn a profit mining deposits the Euro-Americans considered "played out." In 1887 the Ah Heng Company leased a claim along Big Creek for the sum of $4,000. The remains of their ditches, dams, and mining cuts can be seen on the way to and surrounding this cache.
The cache is hidden in a section of penstock, riveted metal pipe used to transport water from a reservoir to large nozzles which directed a stream of water into the hillside. This stream of water washed the dirt, rock and gold bearing gravels into sluice boxes where the gold was recovered. Most of the penstock was removed when the mine was closed or years later when it was collected for scrap metal, particularly during the two world wars. The section of penstock hiding the cache is about 10 feet long and a foot in diameter. The cache is a small plastic container hidden behind a rock just inside one end of the penstock.
The penstock containing the cache is on top of one of the tailings piles located on the north side of Big Creek at the base of the slope heading up to Forest Road 2090. If you reach the creek, you have gone too far. Tailings are the rock cobbles which were removed from the sluice channel and sluice boxes during placer mining. They formed linear piles on either side of the sluice systems. When working in close quarters the tailings were carefully stacked to form rock walls to keep the rock from falling back into the sluices.
I hope you enjoy this bit of mining history as you search for this cache! Please help preserve this site by leaving everything as you found it. More information on the history of mining in the area can be found on the Malheur National Forest website: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/malheur/learning/history-culture