Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Ghost Towns and Gold Rushes
I took this photo of a dilapidated house just outside of a small town called Fossil, Oregon. Eastern Oregon is full of ghost towns that emerge unexpectedly along hill crests on long, lonesome roads. Over Labor Day I took a trip out to the town of The Dalles, Oregon. It is a beautiful old town on the Columbia River which has a rich past as a home to the Fort Dalles. Fort Dalles was the final stop on the Oregon Trail. It is a very interesting place with a historic museum that was once part of the old fort, dating back to the 1850s.
Oregon boasts a total of 18 ghost towns -- more than any other state. Of course, there are always places that have been swept away without notice (and along the way I saw many abandoned buildings that were not part of any town). However, Oregon is full of ghost towns, and they sit casually at the side its winding highways. Many towns were built due to gold mining, but were abandoned after railways bypassed them and ended up creating and supporting different boom towns. Others were abandoned just because the settlers hadn't anticipated weather conditions which rendered their crops useless.
During their time, gold rushes represented a significant part of American history. Now, there is a different sort of rush at hand: the rush to find sustainable alternative energy. Wind farms now line many different parts of the Columbia River Gorge, which is a natural wind tunnel. Business in wind energy is now so lucrative that some describe the scramble to acquire the means/land to create these wind farms as similar to the gold rush. As a result, small communities experience an influx of population and business during the creation of the wind sites, and a waning when the company leaves in the direction of another venture.
Along the same trip, I also took this photo of wind turbines being assembled an hour east of The Dalles. A friend works as a field engineer for a company that specializes in putting up windmill farms. Each of these windmills are immense at 300 feet high, and have huge blades like jumbo jet airplane wings. They generate 2.4 megawatts each, and the power is harnessed by high voltage lines right nearby, and sent to California (among other places along the way, of course). The largest wind farm in the world may soon be along the Columbia River in Oregon.
After seeing buildings in various stages of decay all along the scenic Journey Through Time Scenic Byway (a beautiful drive that everyone should experience), I was left to wonder what around us is on the rise, and what is on its way to being outmoded.