At A Glance

TRAIL LENGTH: .5 miles, round-trip

ELEVATION GAIN: 86 feet

HIGH POINT: 2,412'

BEST TIME TO VISIT: Summer or Fall

POPULARITY: Lightly used

GOOD FOR: kids, beginner hikers, leashed dogs 

WATCH FOR: no cell reception

FEES & PERMITS: No pass needed

NEAREST RANGER: Cle Elum Ranger District Office

 

COORDINATES: Townsite:N47° 25.409' W120° 39.546' Mill: N47° 25.495' W120° 39.591'Mine: N47° 25.486' W120° 39.628' Arrastre: N47° 25.392' W120° 39.581'

LOCATION: Located along Peshastin Creek, in Kittitas County, near Cle Elum Washington.

HIGHLIGHTS: Historic marker, mill ruins, mine, arrastra

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE: Blewett is one of the most famous mining districts in Washington State. 



Driving Directions

FROM HIGHWAY 97:

  • Turn east into the small pull-out for the Blewett historic marker

Trail Directions

FROM THE PARKING AREA:

  • View the interpretive sign in the pull-out
  • Walk across the street to the dirt road on the west side of highway 97.
  • Follow the dirt road to the right, about 470 feet.
  • Explore the site of the Blewett mill.
  • Walk back to the road or climb the hill behind the mill to reach the road.
  • On the right side of the road, just beyond the gate and mill, is the Matwick Mine.
  • Hike back down the road toward highway 97, following the highway to a small trail leading to Peshastin Creek.
  • Follow the path down to the arrastre, about 100 feet

THINGS TO SEE:

  1. Blewett historic marker and interpretive sign
  2. Blewett mill ruins
  3. Matwick Mine
  4. Arrastre

History

The Kittitas County Historical Museum provided Exploring History In Your Hiking Boots with the following brief history of the Blewett Mining Area using information from the book Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines: The East Central Cascade Mountains and the Wenatchee Mountains.Vol.2.Arlington, WA: Oso Pub., 2002. Print. 

Blewett Mining Area
 
The Blewett Mining area is located near the geographical center of Washington State. It is near the north slope of the southeast-to-northwest area of the Wenatchee Mountains. The earliest reports of gold in the area are from 1858 and were made by the Mortimer Robertson prospecting party. Other miners during the 1860s returning from working in the Okanogan and Frasier River areas stopped long enough to work placer deposits into the creeks. They uncovered some gold but quickly moved on.
  
Over the next 15 years, gold mining in the area was rather slow until the interest in hard rock gold grew. Prospector Samuel Culver was the first to claim a ledge of free milling gold. The section on the left side of the gulch known as Pole Pick is Samuel Culvers original claim. Down from the Culver Gulch, Culver also located the Humming Bird Claim. John Shafer soon followed Culver in the area and laid claim to the divide between what is known as Culver Gulch and Negro Creek*. Not long after this the gold rush began.
  
James Lockwood, E.W Lockwood, and Harbin M. Cooper came around in 1877 and bought all the claims expect for Pole Pick and Little Culver. They established the first stamp mill in the Washington Territory, that consisted of a six-stamp mill with a Frue vanner.  The mine successfully ran for several years but was shut down after being sold. By 1879, the first wagon road had been completed in the area which allowed the small camp to be connected to Cle Elum which is about 32 miles south. The land was sold again in 1891 to the Culver Gold Mining Company.  Culver Gold Mining Company built a 10-stamp mill and installed a one and fifth mile long bucket tramway.
 
The Blewett Gold Mining Company bought the mill from Culver Gold Mining Company in 1892. Blewett Gold Mining Company was composed of a group of Seattle investors, including Edward Blewett and H.C. Henry, both who were well known mining investors. They went straight to work developing a highly functioning mill that produced high value gold. The mill was expanded to be a 20-stamp mill with room to add another 20-stamp mill on site. It had four Woodbury concentrators, the bucket tramway was extended and many other slave laboring devices. The company even created 10,000 foot per day capacity saw mill just south of the mining mill. The saw mill provided lumber for the stamp mill bridges and buildings.
The camp just continued to expand to include a blacksmith shop, store, barbershop and a saloon was under construction by 1892. That fall the company had gotten a Minister out of Leavenworth to make bimonthly trips to the camp and brought lawyer and doctor where moved onsite. The first post office of the camp open on January 9, 1893 and the camp was renamed to Warner after the general manager of Blewett Gold Mining Company. However, a few months later the camp was renamed to Blewett. Within the year, Blewett had expanded again to include a saloon, three stores, two boarding houses, two restaurants and a dozen homes. A town hall was constructed in 1894 and was also used as a school house. Up until 1894, the mine and mill had operated as one until the Blewett Gold Mining Company decided they were going to lease portions of the mine out to independent miners. The company felt like the minors were more careful in sorting what they mined and interested overall when they actually held actual interest rather than simply working for wages.
  
The mill changed hands a few times in 1896 when the Blewett Gold Mining Company decided to sell. It first went to Thomas Johnson but within a few months, it was sold to Warrior General Company. Warrior General Company then changed their name to Chelan Mining and Milling Company. Then in 1898, a wagon road from Peshastin, just North of the Wenatchee Valley, that was 18 miles long was connected to Blewett. This allowed for more live stock and the transportation of larger and heavier equipment to be brought into the area. This road also allowed for tri-weekly stage and mail service to the Blewett District that continued to boom. In 1905, the Chelan Mining and Milling Company merged with La Rica Mining Company to become the Washington Meteor Company. The Washington Meteor Company had plans for the mine but where postponed in 1912 when litigation became an issue. In 1918, the Amalgamated Gold Mines Company took over and planned on remodeling and reopening the old workings that were in desperate need of repair. Even with these plans, by 1925 mining in the area had come to a halt and have remained inactive since then.

*Negro Creek was initially named “Nigger” Creek after a former slave named Antoine Etienne recovered $1,100 in gold from said creek. The name was changed in 1968 to replace the original racial slur with something considered more acceptable at the time. In recent decades there has been some consideration of renaming the creek Etienne Creek to appropriately honor the man who struck it rich on that waterway.    

Blewett Arrastra

One of the primary historic attractions in the Blewett Pass area is the Blewett Arrastra. This large, interesting artifact is in the National Register of Historic Places where it is referred to as, "...one of Washington's finest remaining devices illustrating frontier mining technology." The text below is from the National Register of Historic Places Inventory- Nomination Form for the Blewett Arrastra that was submitted to the National Park Service and entered into the registry on September 17, 1974. The complete nomination form can be viewed here.

The Blewett Arrastra remains at the original location in the steep and
narrow valley of Peshastin Creek. Located next to U.S. Route 97, a twolane
highway transecting the southeast corner of the rugged and mountainous
Wenatchee National Forest, the arrastra is the main attraction of
a roadside turn out. The arrastra is situated adjacent to the fast-running
creek, and for dozens of miles around, the forests, streams, and rocky
crags of the Cascade Mountains and foothills remain in pristine
condition.

In the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, the gold mining
town of Blewett occupied the nearby vicinity, but little remains
today except a few abandoned shafts, the deteriorated remains of a
stamp mill, and, of course, the stone arrastra. The original structures
and buildings deteriorated or burned, or were moved or destroyed,
particularly whenever modern highway construction occurred in the
extremely narrow and constricted valley.

Records indicate the Blewett Arrastra was extensively used, and as
early as the 1860's. Cut in bedrock, the arrastra measures about
eight feet across. The base is intact, but the rocks dragged in the
track to crush ore are missing. This part of the device, however,
was often worn down and replaced. Three drag stones from other
arrastras have been placed in the track. Various means could be used
to move the drag stone around the circular trough, but no trace remains
of these impermanent devices.

Whenever gold was discovered in the 1860 * s and 1870's in the mountain*-
ous regions of Oregon, British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and
Eastern Washington, the influence of old California was always
evident. In the new gold fields, the knowledge and methods of the
Californians was respected and adhered to. California miners*
including some original Forty-niners, were one portion of the mixed*-up
vanguard of different peoples who discovered the goldfields in the
eastern portion of the Cascade Mountains of Washington Territory. The
Blewett Arrastra may not have been actually built by California miners,
but the device was clearly Californian in origin.

The Blewett Arrastra, constructed in the 1860's and remaining in
excellent condition today, dates from the earliest days of mining in
the Pacific Northwest. The device known as an arrastra (or arrastre)
had been developed much earlier in Spanish America and was later
adopted by Californians in the 1850's. The use of these devices then
quickly spread as new goldfields were discovered throughout the West,
A number of arrastras were constructed in the eastern Cascades, and
some remain today including, of course, the Blewett Arrastra.

An arrastra was inexpensive, and easy to construct and maintain. An
arrastra was the simplest device available for crushing quartz and
could also work placers. These surprisingly efficient devices were
often used to work ore that first had been crushed in a nearby stamp
mill. The gold was then reclaimed by amalgamation with mercury, either
by placing the quicksilver in the mortar or in sluices, riffle boards,
and other similar devices.

The typical arrastra consisted of flat surfaced stones layed in a
circular pattern and surrounded by a retaining wall. A post was set
in the middle, and a sweep was hitched to a horse or mule to pull the
drag stones around the track. The Blewett Arrastra is somewhat
unusual because it was cut into bed rock. Furthermore, the Blewett
miners moved their arrastra with waterpower, but may have also used
mules and horses. The Blewett Arrastra was used until at least 1880.
Today, it is one of Washington's finest remaining devices illustrating
frontier mining technology. The arrastra is owned and protected by
the Washington State Department of Highways and is easily accessible
to the public.