Powder River, Oregon
The River Nourishes the Basin
The river begins in the Elkhorn range of the Blue Mountains, in the northeast part of Oregon.
It is a tributary of the Snake River.
When the pioneers coming through from 1843 until 1861, they often stop at the few spots by the river between Baker City and North Powder, totally unaware of the richness of the future Baker County, on their way to the Willamette Valley.
The river runs 110 miles from the origin above Sumpter to the mouth at the Snake River just east of Richland.
Gold was discovered at the Griffin Gulch, a small creek feeding the Powder River, just above Baker City. Later gold discoveries were made on other tributaries of the Powder River from above and downriver.
Auburn, Bourne, Sumpter, McEwen, Sanger, Cableville, Sparta were all gold towns. Only Sumpter survives.
Farm communities also sprung up along the river and its tributaries. Bowen Valley, Thief Valley, Muddy Creek, Haines, North Powder, Keating, New Bridge, Richland, Rock Creek, Wingville, Telocaset and Pocahontas. Wingville was first farming community right before Baker City was founded in 1862 and made a county seat and subsequently incorporated as a city in 1875.
Efforts were made to dam the river and tributaries. Phillips Reservoir was created in 1960s. Thief Valley Reservoir was created much earlier. There were several small reservoirs: Love Reservoir, Neault Reservoir, Auburn Reservoir, Goodrich Lake,
Settlers were found along the tributaries feeding the Powder River, taking advantage of fertile hay fields for the cattle and other purposes.
Sutton, Elk, Timber Gulch, Juniper Gulch, Blue Canyon with parallel Littlefield Ditch, Willow, Poker, Webfoot, California Gulch, Union, Smith, Miners, Deer, Stovepipe Gulch, Worley, Denny, Lake, Rancheria, Stices Gulch, Shaffner, Baldock Slough, Old Settlers Slough, Salmon, Pine, Spring, Goodrich, Mill, Marble, Willow, Anthony, Rock, Muddy, Christine's Slough, Sand, Fish, Gentry, Hot, North Powder, Wolf, Antelope, Cusick, Magpie, Big, Balm, Ritter, Goose, Love, Bacher, Eagle, Kirby, and Waterbury Gulch.
Ditches were built to irrigate the farmlands: McEwen Valley, Smith, Shaw-Stewart, Baldock, Corral, Payton, Nelson, Estes, Miller, Mansfield, Jacobsen, Basche, Erwin, Duncan, Emele, Erwin, Perkins, Cranston, etc.
Communities, towns, cities and ghost towns located on the Powder River drainage: Bourne, Sumpter, Baker City, McEwen, Pocahontas, Wingville, Haines, Muddy Creek, North Powder, Telocaset, Keating, Goose Creek, Sparta, Sanger, New Bridge and Richland.