NAME: Malhuer
COUNTY: Malhuer
CLIMATE: Mild winter and summer.
COMMENTS: Near the Idaho border.
REMAINS: Many remnants, cemetery.

CORRECTION: The information on Malheur City is inaccurate. Malheur city was actually at the head of willow creek valley,

               North of Vale. It was an off shoot of Mormon basin, where placer gold was first discovered about 1879.

               There is a road that leaves the highway(25) a few miles,~11, north of Huntington, OR. The road heads west or left if you are headed north and goes up a canyon to Rye Valley, now a ranching area. Rye Valley was a placering area in the old days. This is part of “Three Valleys Ranch” holdings now, headquartered in Bridgeport, OR. I worked there for a few years.

Anyway, after reaching Rye Valley, go left at the T and proceed~ 16 miles up to Mormon Basin. There are some real cool old buildings up there. Maybe even some placer gold left. The road to the NW will lead down Clark Creek, a major tributary to the

Burnt river placers. Turning SW will take you to the edge of the “BASIN” giving a wonderful view of the willow creek drainage.

Willow creek was also placered. If you then drop down the fairly steep road, heading south, you will cross the “Eldorado ditch.”

At the bottom of the mtn. go right for about 8 miles and there will be a turn off to the right that takes you up to Malheur City.

It is…was…well signed. There was quite a bit of placer gold that washed off of Pedro Peak. The original Mormon Basin was very rich. Well worth seeing in the summer and fall.


Dennis Price


There is some debate over how the town received its name. It seems most likely the town was named after the Malheur River even though it is close but not on the river. The accepted version is from the journal of a Hudson Bay trapper who wrote: “Tuesday, Feb.14, 1826, we encamped on River Au Malheur.” Malhuer means misfortune. The much smaller neighboring town of Willow Creek is on the stream of the same name and it was in this stream gold was discovered in 1863. The gravels of Willow Creek had plenty of gold but water for sluicing was irregular much of the time. A major undertaking to bring water to the diggings was begun in 1863 in the form of what then was called the El Dorado Ditch. When the channel was carrying water to El Dorado and Malheur City, it was 134 miles long, five feet wide at the bottom and seven feet wide at the top. It proved to be a boon to Malheur City and its mining operations. In 1887, placer mining showed signs of becoming unproductive and soon the famed ditch was of no further use to miners. In 1911, efforts were made to convert the ditch to irrigation purposes but failed. As the ditch dried up, so did Malheur City. In 1957, a grass fire devastated what was left of the town. SUBMITTED BY: Henry Chenowith