Finding Blewett Ghost Town
Date of Adventure: June 28, 2015
We had been wanting to visit the Blewett mill and townsite for quite awhile, but had been too busy seeking out mines that were far off the beaten path. When Julie underwent a biopsy to determine whether or not she had breast cancer, we needed to take a break from difficult, off-trail journeys while she healed. It was a perfect opportunity to explore this easily reached historic site, and to distract ourselves from thinking about the pending diagnosis.
After spending the night at a hotel in Cle Elum, WA, we headed east out of town and took Hwy 97 north over Blewett Pass. The townsite was a ways beyond the pass, and a pullout on the east side of the road had a sign marking the old Blewett townsite as well as a historical marker for the Blewett Arrastra.
We knew the old mill and other points of interest were across the road from the townsite marker, so we drove up a gravel road on the west side of the highway and parked just below the mill site. There was no trailhead per se, but this was a good point from which to start our adventure.
Unlike most of our adventures, most of the "trail" to Blewett was travelled by car. From our parking spot we simply followed a well-worn path past the remains of the mill foundation to reach the remains of the mill itself above.
The Blewett stamp mill was a 20-stamp mill that received and processed ore from mines that reside on the mountainside above. The main timbers of the mill were still standing at the time of our visit and looked like they will be for some years to come.
At the time the mill was in operation, the surrounding area was clear of trees. The forest visible in these photos has grown up around the mill since the site was abandoned.
Even though all of the inner working of the mill had been removed, it was still fascinating to see the structure that supported the equipment and imagine how it all might have fit together.
Although we saw a scattering of empty beer bottles and other litter here and there, the Blewett Mill ruins were refreshingly graffiti-free. It was surprising considering the site's easy accessibility.
After exploring the lower area of the ruins we decided to take a look at it from above.
The top of the ruins consisted of a pile of ore and broken timbers. According to Discovering Washington's Historic Mines Volume 2 the Blewett Mill had two receiving bins which had a capacity of 400 tons of ore each. They would have been situated at the top of the mill and were filled with ore being delivered from above via the aerial tram.
Walking uphill from the mill site, we found the lower adit of the Matwick mine. The entrance had clearly been sealed off at some point, but the metal gate that had sealed it was laying about 8 feet away from the entrance.
The interior of the Matwick mine was dry and dusty. Ore deposits were visible in a few areas along the tunnels length.
No equipment or artifacts remained inside the adit, but it was about 20 degrees cooler than the 100-plus degree temperature outside, so we took our time exploring it.
We eventually decided to venture back outside into the heat to explore a bit more. It was difficult since we could feel the temperature rising with each step we took toward the portal.
After exiting the Matwick mine we headed south and explored a slope above Peshastin Creek. We explored a few more unidentified adits before descending to the creek and locating an old arrastra that was used to process ore before the stamp mill was built.
Only the grindstone portion of the arrastra remained. "Arrastra" is the Spanish word for "drags". When in operation this arrastra would have had a top section fitted with large stones that would be dragged against this base to grind ore. Mecury placed in the trough would then bind with gold particles released by the grinding process.
A waterwheel in Peshastin Creek nearby provided power to turn the top section of the arrastra. It also provided water to flush out waste material, and probably more than a little mercury. We did not filter any drinking water from the stream just to be on the safe side. After thoroughly inspecting the arrastra we decided to head back to the west side of the Cascades to get out of the heat.
Thank you for reading about our adventure finding the Blewett Ghost Town. If you choose to take your own adventure to this spot*, we hope you will drop us a line.