Gin Lin Trail (Applegate Valley) 22-Feb-2021

There is nothing good about the Big V. Nothing. But dealing with it has kept us more local and that has made us consider trails, however short, that we’ve overlooked in years past. One of these is the very short (0.8 mile (1.2 km)) Gin Lin Mining Trail, located a little north of oft-visited Applegate Lake. Despite its brevity, it’s actually a National Recreation Trail that was developed to recognize Gin Lin, a Chinese immigrant who through hard work, innovative thinking, and a good business sense – and despite rampant racism – became a notable and respected personage during Southern Oregon’s early days. He is credited with introducing hydraulic mining to the area. The most successful gold mines in Southern Oregon all used this method. This trail winds through the remnants of the last of his mines, the Palmer Creek hydraulic mine, which operated from the mid 1870s to about 1885.

Gin Lin c1880 (Southern Oregon Historical Society)

We’ve driven past this trail numerous times but today we stopped by after a hike at Applegate Lake. We brought with us a download of the brochure which describes sights along the trail. This was a good thing as none were available at the trailhead and you really need one to help you imagine what this mine was like back in the day. Except for some riveted iron pipe near the trailhead, the most obviously recognizable mining features are the remnants of the Palmer Creek Ditch at the high point along the trail and the cut-face of the hydraulic operations downhill from there. Some of the sights along the trail could do with a little light clean-up to both make them more visible to today’s visitors and possibly preserve them for future visitors.

You have to use your imagination a lot here. Just keep in mind that letting gravity work for you is the basic idea. You divert water from a creek to above your mine (via a ditch), bring in down through iron pipes to a nozzle that you use to wash gold-bearing dirt into sluice boxes to capture the gold flakes, and then you let the water and unwanted dirt continue down into the Applegate River. The numbers in the photos below match those in the brochure.

This V-shaped cut was lined with sluice boxes 140 years ago (2)
Tailings composed of cobbles washed out by the mine (near 3)
The faint remains of one of the subsidiary ditches that brought water to the sluices from the Palmer Creek Ditch above (5)
The Palmer Creek Ditch (7)
The Palmer Creek Ditch (7)
Looking down the cut-bank of the hydraulic operation (10)
The cut-bank from below (11)
The water and dirt slurry from the hydraulic operation was channeled into this gully, which was lined with sluices boxes to capture the gold (12)
This channel was lined with sluice boxes (12)
After passing through the sluice boxes, the now unwanted dirt was deposited in an ever lengthening ridge of tailings (13)

Gin Lin is known to have amassed over a $1,000,000 in gold (about $42 million at today’s gold prices) from his various mining endeavors. He disappears from Oregon records in the 1880s and is believed to have returned to China. There he either died from natural causes or was murdered for his gold. His actual fate is unknown. What is known is his legacy of having introduced hydraulic mining to Southern Oregon and the prosperity he enjoyed as a result of doing so. Although hydraulic mining is an ugly business, and caused a great deal of environmental damage (particularly in California), we do have it to thank for today’s very popular Sterling Mine Ditch Trail. So, as is often the case in life, you get the good with the bad (but dwell on the good). 🙂

The #917 as built doesn’t exactly align with the #917 as mapped
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