Cinnabar Mines, Crook County OR

The Cinnabar Mines of the Ochoco’s mined just that; Cinnabar, which is what mercury is extracted from. These mines have since been abandoned and their remains are scattered throughout the forest surrounding Prineville Oregon. Most are on private land, but three are easily accessible and still reside on public lands. They are the Mother Lode, Independent Mine, and the Blue Ridge Mine (which is located right behind the Four Horsemen Hotel).

Blue Ridge Mine consists mainly of a refinery and some smelters. With it’s location being right off the main road and having the Four Horseman Hotel in the same area, this spot has the most in the smallest space to explore when talking about Prineville’s mining history.

 

There is a hiking trail going around the entire Mother Lode mining project, in which some of the old workers huts are still standing. It is not too far up the road from Blue Ridge Mine. There were a few collapsed shafts here and there, but none you could walk more than 6 inches into. Higher on the hill I came across a tower that has since broken in half and fallen over. The bottom half is still accessible and easy to explore regardless of the structural damage.

On top of the hill I found the crowned gem of mining artifact survivals; the smelter. It is still in near perfect condition and could feasibly be used today. It’s just strange to see it in the middle of a sea of trees. The hike was enjoyable, and not overly extraneous. It’s a fun way to get outdoors and explore the world around you.

 

 

 

Then there is the Independent Mine, which has no actual mining shafts. Instead this area features a lot of the housing for on-site miners, who in those days were almost always Chinese. Again, it is very close to the other mines. This is a short trail, but the scenery is beautiful. It’s also nice to see the crops are still growing long after everyone tending them has gone.

 

The map below gives a rough estimation as to where these mines are located, as they don’t have an actual address. I’d encourage you to go explore them but remember to respect this historical site. It isn’t a park with fees like most large abandoned building collections, and it isn’t routinely maintained. It is up to the locals to keep these mining areas cleaned up and fun to explore. Don’t make it hard on them.

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