The Ah Hee Diggins Interpretive Site displays the mining efforts of Chinese miners in the late 1800s and the resulting hand-stacked rock tailings that can be seen from the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway. Although the miners could not file their own claims, holders could sell or lease worked-out claims to Chinese owned companies. To pursue their gold mining efforts, the miners muscled rock into piles across 16 acres of the valley to expose the ancient streambed. Evidence of both ground sluicing and hydraulic mining systems is found at the site. The miners used pans, rockers, hydraulic giants and sluice boxes to extract the gold from the sediments in the streambed. A network of over three miles of ditches supplied the water for these mining efforts.
The Chinese miners lived near the site and the remains of their habitation and cooking areas were excavated by Priscilla Wegars from the University of Idaho with volunteer labor provided by the Forest Service Passport In Time (PIT) program. The team recovered numerous artifacts including Chinese ceramic tableware, fragments of cast iron woks, metal and Chinese Brown Glazed Stoneware food containers, and various mining tools. Analysis of the artifacts and relevant historic records indicate that gardening, hunting and blacksmithing all took place at the site. The cooking and eating area was separate from the dwellings in order to efficiently feed the large number of workers. The 1870 census documents 337 Chinese miners working in the vicinity. The Chinese made up over 80% of the placer miners in the Granite precinct at that time.
The text and photos of the interpretive markers can be found in the Historical Marker Database.
Access Directions: From Baker City, OR, travel south on Highway 7 for 26 miles to the Sumpter Valley Highway (State 220); Turn right on the Sumpter Valley Highway and go through Sumpter towards Granite on Forest 73 (Elkhorn Scenic Byway) for about 20 miles; At Granite turn right on Forest Road 73 and travel 1.5 miles to the site. The site is adjacent to the Sumpter/Granite Highway, on the Elkhorn Drive Scenic Byway.