Layton Ditch Headworks (Southwest Oregon) 08-Feb-2022

Between 1874 and 1877, Chinese laborers hand dug a 21-mile (34 km) long ditch to bring water from the Pipe Fork of the East Fork of Williams Creek to J.T. Layton’s hydraulic gold mines in Bamboo and Ferris Gulches. Although profitable (not something you can say for most mines around here), the gold-bearing alluvium feeding these mines eventually played-out. So, by the 1920s, this ditch (and others like it) had been abandoned and mostly forgotten. But its alignment and the ditch tender trail next to it remained. Then the restoration of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail in the mid-2000s showed how these old ditches could become highly popular hiking and riding venues. For the Layton Ditch, the Williams Community Forest Project teamed with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to restore 13 miles of it as a hiking and riding trail. 😃

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Layton Ditch Trail North (Williams, Oregon) 26-Mar-2021

Gold was discovered in southwest Oregon in the early 1850s and the inevitable hoard of fortune seekers arrived soon after. Early mining activity focused on easily accessible placer deposits, unconsolidated sand, gravel, and minerals that could be exploited by panning. Once the bulk of these were exhausted, most of the hoard moved on to the next “strike” (…and on and on). Those miners that remained needed the wherewithal to upgrade to hydraulic mining, which required capital, expensive equipment, and an organized workforce. It also required a lot of water and a lot of ditches to move said water from where it was naturally (in a creek) to where it was needed (at the mine). The Sterling Mine Ditch is probably the best known such ditch around here mainly because much of its 26.5 mile (42.6 km) length has been repurposed as a great and popular hiking/biking/riding trail.

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Five Southern Oregon Hikes: Not the Usual Suspects (May 2018)


There are many wonderful hikes in Southern Oregon: From the short (Grizzly Peak) to the long (Lone Pilot Trail), from the high (Mount McLoughlin) to the low (Upper and Lower Table Rocks); from the gripping (Mount Thielsen) to the mellow (Jacksonville Woodlands).  These – and many others – are “usual suspect” hikes in that you’ll find them mentioned or detailed in almost every hiking guidebook, travel brochure, blog, or website that speaks to foot-powered travel in the southern part of the Beaver State.  We’ve hiked all of the usual suspects, often several times, but have also hiked some that are less usual, ones you don’t see discussed very often (if at all). Below are five such hikes for summer. But, fair warning, these are not “…slip on the flips, grab a half bottle of warm Pepsi, and wander into the woods…” kinda hikes; you’re going to need some stuff and, for a few of them, real navigation and off-trail travel skills too. That said, hiking these will likely provide you with a different – and probably well-earned – perspective on the natural side of Southern Oregon. It could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

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Up the Fork Without a Pipe (Williams, Oregon) 10-Mar-2018

Layton Mine Pipe Fork Williams Oregon

In March of last year, we hiked the recently restored Layton Mine Ditch Trail north from Panther Gap Road to the Chinese Wall. Then, this January, I hiked the ditch from the gap south to its end at the head of the East Fork of Williams Creek. The ditch ends about 120 feet above the creek and it wasn’t immediately obvious how the miners got water from the creek up into the ditch. Post-hike research would reveal that they had installed a 600-foot long inverted siphon (in today’s terminology, a sag pipe) to carry water to the ditch from somewhere up the creek (today’s Pipe Fork).   There’s no obvious sign today of headworks or pipe (which was 36 inch in diameter cast iron) at or near the ditch’s end.  There may be remains of the siphon up the Pipe Fork. With that in mind, Hike #13 in Roether’s 2006 Williams Area Trail Guide seemed like one way to reconnoiter the drainage. So with The LovedOne away volunteering at the library, I soloed out to Pipe Fork to see what could be seen.

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Layton Ditch Trail South (Williams, Oregon) 31-Jan-2018

Layton Mine Ditch Trail Williams Oregon

In March of 2017, our search for a new (to us) low-altitude hike brought us to the Layton Mine Ditch Trail, recently restored through the efforts of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Williams Community Forest Project. At that time we did the 6-mile (roundtrip) hike north from Panther Gap along the remains of the ditch to the Chinese Wall – one of Williams’ most famous architectural structures. Although it is still a work in progress, I recently learned from the project’s Cheryl Bruner that the trail has been largely restored for the 7 miles south from Panther Gap to the ditch’s end at the head of the East Fork of Williams Creek. So, after waiting out some harsh weather and an even harsher bout with the flu, I finally got the chance to explore this part of the ditch trail.  The LovedOne, still recovering from her flu experience, and behind on her library volunteerism, decided to take a pass on this one.

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