Gold Miners, Horses and Hot Springs…
This was a well-known stage stop on The Dalles Military road due to its location at the junction of the South Fork and the main stem of the John Day River. As you leave Dayville heading east, note the landmark 1883 red barn that still remains structurally sound. (This barn is on private property, so please view it from the roadside pullover.)
The Dalles Military Road
One of the interesting sidelights to the Journey Through Time was the historic need of the US government to ensure the safe delivery of the gold from Canyon City to a mint in the Dalles. The government commissioned The Dalles Military Road, which ran approximately parallel to the scenic byway.
Another tiny town with an unusual history, Mt. Vernon was famous for its horse racing and hot springs. In the late 1800’s, horse racing was one of the most popular regional pastimes, and many races took place just west of town. Another major attraction, known for its healing waters, Mt. Vernon Hot Springs operated near the current town site as a major spa in the early 1900’s, flourishing until about 1920. The facility was destroyed by fire in 1968 and today, only the bricks and chimneys remain.
John Day is the major town along the Journey Through Time route. Chinese railroad workers and miners were vital to the area in the late 1800’s and their presence helped to create one of the most unusual museums in Oregon – The Kam Wah Chung Museum. This original Chinese medical clinic, run by the Chinese herbalist Ing Hay and his business partner Lung On, is perfectly preserved today. After the mines shut down and most Chinese works moved on, they continued to serve local residents from this building. During summer months, tours are conducted through the museum. You can see rooms colored by opium smoke, collections of medicinal herbs and furnishings representative of Chinese life.
Amazingly, this little town became the largest city in Oregon for a short time in the late 1800s after one of the biggest gold strikes in the Northwest occurred along Canyon Creek in 1862. Between 1862 and 1880, miners removed over $26 million in gold from the area, and Canyon City became known for its round-the-clock rowdiness and occasional violence.
Strawberry Mountain looks down upon Prairie City, creating one of the most photogenic vistas on the Journey Through Time. After its founding in 1868 Prairie City had to be rebuilt three times following major fires. Much of its importance as a shipping point for Grant County was due to the Sumpter Valley Railroad lines, with its narrow-gauge tracks running from Baker City to Prairie City. The Great Depression ended this connection, although the shortened Sumpter Valley Railroad continued to transport logs to sawmills in Baker city until 1947. The original train depot in Prairie City has been restored and is now the DeWitt Depot Park Museum.
Covered Wagon / Upper John Day River Overlook
A significant memorial of the Oregon Trail lies approximately four miles east of Prairie City. Consisting of an oversized covered wagon and a viewpoint, it is a moving reminder of more than 150,000 pioneers and their arduous journey in covered wagons in the mid-1800s on the Oregon Trail