Gold. It was supposed to be the find they had all been waiting for, hidden just below the surface in a narrow valley. The Eureka Lode. The Glory Hole. It was 1894.
Hundreds of excited miners traveled for days by steamship, canoe, horseback and then on foot to get to the new town of Barron, Washington, in search of gold. They lived in tents that dotted the hillside and were supplied by the town, which basically consisted of a store and a tavern. They came to get rich. Most ended up working for a daily wage that included $2.50, meals, and a bed made of tree branches.
In only two years Barron became a ghost town. Veins of gold quickly disappeared underground and costs were just too high. But the fever was never cured. Small mines came and went for the next 40 years and even today prospectors still come looking.
Today Barron is one of the most intact ghost towns in the state. There are several standing cabins and an equal number of collapsed ones. You don’t have to look hard to find several mining shafts/entrances, many of which are still explorable. The valley is littered with wooden structures and mechanical remnants of the gold mining days, including mining carts and rails, steel tanks, machines, hoppers, and an impressive train-sized inline 6 cylinder diesel engine.
Know Before You Go
The best time of year to visit is between mid-July and late September when there is no snow cover to worry about. Barron can be accessed by turning off of highway 20 at the town of Mazama, then driving north on road 9140 for 8.8 miles, then turning onto road NF-5400 and going 9.2 miles to arrive at Hart's pass. Once at the pass, drive down road NF-700 2.75 miles and stop at the gated turnoff to Barron. Be advised that most of the town is private property and the owners frequently use their land during the summer, so be respectful and take nothing but pictures.