A section of the China Ditch trail in 2013.
Location of the China Ditch in Oregon.
|Nearest city||Myrtle Creek, Oregon|
|Area||38.1 acres (15.4 ha)|
|Built by||Myrtle Creek Consolidated Hydraulic Gold Mining and Manufacturing Company|
|Governing body||Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service|
|NRHP Reference #||91000616|
|Added to NRHP||May 22, 1991|
The China Ditch in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, United States is a canal that stretches for 30 miles (48 km) and was built in part by Chinese laborers to supply water for the hydraulic mining of gold. The Myrtle Creek Consolidated Hydraulic Gold Mining and Manufacturing Company began purchasing land for the ditch in 1890 and was bankrupt by 1894. Portions of the ditch remain visible and an 11 mile long section is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of the homesteaders in the area had been drawn west in the California gold rush and later moved north to begin farming. When gold was discovered in Douglas County, Oregon in the 1860s, a number of residents returned to mining. In 1889, miners in the area began planning for 2,000 acres of new placers around North Myrtle Creek and became convinced that the surrounding hillsides also held significant deposits. By 1890, two large hydraulic mining machines, or "giants", were operating in the area. These machines used high pressure jets of water to dislodge sediments, but were only functional for about 3 months each winter, when sufficient water was available.
Survey and construction
To expand the machines' usefulness, the Myrtle Creek Consolidated Hydraulic Gold Mining and Manufacturing Company (MCCHGMMC) proposed digging a ditch—5 feet (1.5 m) deep and 3 feet (0.9 m) wide at the bottom and 5 feet wide at the top—to carry water 33 miles (53 km) from the Little River to North Myrtle Creek. After surveyors employed by the company determined that the project was feasible, 80 men began construction, and by early winter they had completed 7 miles (11 km) of the ditch. The company's president, L. W. Brown, a Eugene physician, said the ditch would eventually provide irrigation water to prune orchards in the region and would transport timber to a sawmill in Myrtle Creek, in addition to supplying water for mining.
In June 1891, the company hired 100 Chinese laborers to extend the ditch and tap four additional creeks, giving the construction its name. As part of this work, a 400 foot tunnel was constructed through the mountain to connect the new supplies to the existing ditch. This additional construction allowed three giants to operate around the clock by the end of that year.
By the time of late spring of 1892, there were still 3 miles (4.8 km) of the ditch left to be constructed. In order to help the construction, timber was produced temporarily and water was directed around the rocky hillsides. A fourth giant later made its appearance in April 1893.
Debts and dissolution
On June 1, 1893, the glory days of MCCHGMMC began to come to an end when the county Circuit Court issued a writ of attachment against the company. In the following days, other parties were granted writs totaling $4,420 in unpaid wages and $6,000 in other debts. An injunction was issued against the sale of the property or company stock by the ownership and the county sheriff was ordered to guard the property until the cases could be resolved.
Sheriff Dillard decided that it was better to clean out the gravel in the sluices, rather than guard the property around the clock. He found just over 9 ounces of gold, instead of the 75 ounces expected, based on the number of days that the giants had been operating. The company was accused of salting the placers and of hiring more men than necessary for appearances. On July 4, 1893, the court ruled for the miners, causing the company to shut down. On October 19 of the following year, the company's property, mining claims, and the ditch were sold for $7,691.
The China Ditch was officially entered into the National Register of Historic Places on May 22, 1991.
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Douglas County, Oregon
- Media related to China Ditch at Wikimedia Commons
- Beckham, Stephen Dow (August 1989). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: China Ditch" (PDF). Retrieved May 7, 2013..
- Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. "Oregon Historic Sites Database". Retrieved May 7, 2013..
- "China Ditch Driving Loop". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
- "China Ditch History". Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved August 1, 2013.