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Thread: Seneca, California photographs

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    Tsarevna's Avatar
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    Default Seneca, California photographs

    I apologize for some of the poorer-quality photographs, but I was working under unusual circumstances. I had an injured arm, which doesn't help when one wants to dial in camera settings. A forest fire was ravaging the area, dimming the light for pictures and making it difficult to focus through the haze. It was also getting dark, and it was the last day of my California trip, so I had to decide whether to visit the area in poor lighting conditions, or to call it off.

    Photographs taken in early July, 2008.

    I chose to press on.



    On the highway leading to Chester, near Canyon Dam, there is a sign declaring <----- SENECA . It doesn't explain what "Seneca" is, but if anyone took the time to research it, they'd find it is the site of two ghost towns. Old Seneca was a gold-rush era boomtown, complete with stores, post office, hotel, assayer's office, homes, Chinese community, stamp mill, and plenty of hard-rock drift mines. Unfortunately, it burned. It's ruins, mostly rocky foundations, are on private property.

    The "new" Seneca was built not far from the ruins of the old, when new blood moved into town and re-activated the mines around the 1920's or late teens. It was probably WWII that collapsed the potential for Seneca to grow; this speculation based on the fact that most California drift mine operations lost their male workers at this time to the draft and had to shut down. (Post-war, the price of gold and operational costs prevented many mines from re-opening.) *More research is needed here.

    Seneca Road is well maintained, wide, and gently graded, allowing not only 2wd cars, but logging trucks, and vacationers towing boats to the nearby Butt Lake. It doesn't have much in the way of guidance signs, but the way is clear when common sense is applied. Power lines follow the main road, which gently winds down the ravine, which is on one's right. Keeping the ravine to your right you stay on the main road, eventually turning right and crossing the Seneca bridge.



    Hydraulic mining remnants? Or just a natural washout?



    There is a sign, not far from the highway, that warns motorists that the road ahead contains no turn-arounds for 15 miles, and is narrow and dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth. This sign has probably caused many to turn around and go back, but it need not be heeded.



    Once over the bridge, one is in Seneca. To the north a private, gated road leads to the ruins, but this is off-limits to the public. (This is a view of the road to the south, looking towards new Seneca.)

    Unfortunately, looters have come to this spot, and even been bold enough to post their looting "adventure" in blogs on the internet, bragging about what they took. These people should be ashamed. The rusty old nails and things in the ground are not free for the taking. They are our history, they belong to the public, and someday archeologists will need these things to understand the gold rush. Do not take anything from Seneca! It is illegal, and the locals will prosecute.



    Last edited by Tsarevna; 05-07-2009 at 10:27 AM. Reason: added picture date

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    An old powder house?



    A cabin.



    A tree makes for a good road signpost.



    The famous Gin Mill, established in the late 1880's. (Notice the tree growing through the porch.) *This may not be the original 1880's building, I must dig up my notes to be sure. This might be a 1920's era structure.

    A gust of wind sprung up and blew forest-fire smoke away for a few minutes, while I took the powder-house photo. It soon settled back in to pollute the next photographs.
    Last edited by Tsarevna; 05-06-2009 at 09:38 AM. Reason: additional info

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    Shacks dot the area, some still standing, others piles of timbers with a roof crowning the top.





    Perhaps the remains of the stamp mill?



    The Clamper's historic plaque.

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    Great photos. Really like that gin mill.

    Solar heated showers??? Green to clean in one bath and in the late 1800's even...I like it!

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    Sign on the porch of the Gin Mill. It declares 1888 or 1886.
    (It is apparently a tradition for visitors to leave their business cards tacked to the building's porch.)



    Driving further down Seneca Road one encounters the mines. This is a top-down view of the Lucky Chance's collapsed older buildings. The LC has been re-opened since at least 2008, and is located on private property.





    As night fell, I was taken by a local to see the collapsed entrance of an unknown mine. Two men, prospective purchasers of the mine, went inside for an inspection. They had just enough time to run for their lives before the entrance collapsed on their heels of their escape. They told me they decided to leave it alone.

    Dozens of men have died in Seneca's drift mines over the decades. Some mines that might yet produce gold are bypassed for safety reasons.

    Today Seneca is a good spot for a relaxing retreat away from the crowded tourist traps near Lake Almanor. The locals (there are a few year-round residents, perhaps 10,) enjoy respectful visitors, and they crowd around the Gin Mill telling stories of the old days on summer evenings. The Gin Mill may not have electricity, but coolers chill the beer and soda. The fishing in the creek has been renowned for more than a century, and the presence of river otter attest to the bountiful supply of fish.

    The shaded, secluded ravine town is one of California's best kept secrets.
    Last edited by Tsarevna; 05-07-2009 at 09:38 AM. Reason: stupid spell check, made me mis-spell river otter! :D

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    Addendum: two more photographs





    Ruins of a collapsed shed or cabin. Front and back.

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    Pretty neat to see an old ghost in those forests. Great story about the trip and mines and pictures.
    "Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns of dilemmas."

    H.L. Mencken

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    Most if not all gold mines were ordered closed by the Government in 1941, or 1942 as they were not thought to be essential to the war effort.

    Here is a link to a brief discussion of this government action.

    http://www.ncgold.com/History/BecomingCA_Archive75.html
    Last edited by Dave A; 05-06-2009 at 06:39 PM. Reason: Added info

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    Great story & photo's, I thoroughly enjoyed it. You really find some interesting places.

    <
    "The good things a person needs-stubbornness, thinking for himself-don't make him a useful member of society. What makes him useful is to be half dead." Sylvan Hart

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    Keep posting Tsarevna. We need to see more. Good stuff.
    Don Winslow
    Glendora, California
    Ghost Town Web site:http://www.donwinslow.net/Ghost%20Towns.html

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